Print this page

Lucy Greco

  Accessibility in Education


Working with Web 2.0 Applications: Day 1

Tell a Friend

Last week, I wrote about my one-month challenge to use only Web 2.0 applications at work. In this post, I will take you through Day 1 of using a popular email client and a micro-blogging site.

Twitter has created a very simple user interface to interact with it as an application

Image: Twitter has created a very simple user interface to interact with it as an application.

I have not been an extensive user of web apps as I find several of them inaccessible or difficult to adapt to. All this needs to change as I have discovered, through trial and error and upon reading articles elsewhere on the web about the positive updates on Web 2.0 apps, especially, Google’s email client Gmail.

On Day 1, I began with Gmail and refrained from using the basic HTML view; instead, I have been trying the advanced features of Gmail’s standard inbox view. I have also done a lot of work using my Google Apps for Education account (at work). This has not been as smooth as using Microsoft Outlook to get through my daily quota of emails. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost three or four messages that were in draft mode. I’m finding the process of staying within the “body” of the message to be a little difficult. Yes, in some cases the problem exists between keyboard and chair. However, I did find a significant difference in my ability to get the information I needed when I used NVDA, the open source free screen reader.

I would be working in the body of a message that I wanted to send, reading through the content again, before sending it, but would accidentally hit the wrong key and lose track of the content. I tracked down the problem to hitting F10 instead of hitting Shift+F10 to bring up the context menu. Of course, with my poor spelling this was an action I repeated several times. So if my fingers were just a little slower on one hand then on the other I would be lost. I think NVDA had a definite advantage over JAWS because I was using the latter first. Admittedly, I was learning how to navigate the interface using a screen reader while testing with JAWS. However, after the first day I still couldn’t find the text of a message that has been opened to read it with JAWS without turning on the virtual cursor. I find using JAWS requires me to drop in and out of the virtual cursor depending on the situation. Getting to know what the situations are will only take another day or two I think.

NVDA also had a distinct advantage in that one of the first things I did today was listen to Marco Zehe’s podcast on how to use Gmail in Firefox within NVDA. So I already knew what to expect and how to navigate with that screen reader.

How I Navigate Twitter
Moving on to Twitter now. Twitter has created a very simple user interface to interact with it as an application. Many of the keyboard shortcuts that they have chosen are standard in other applications which make them easy to learn and remember. The only thing I find difficult in this transition is understanding the difference in terminology. I have only had an account for about a year-and-a-half but the terminology used on Twitter is very different from what I have heard from my friends and what I have used with clients in the past. For example, Twitter refers to a private message as ‘direct message’.  I still haven’t found where I can see replies and tweets from people that mention me. I think it is in the notifications panel but that also seems to have a great deal of other information within it. This means that I am not really sure if I am getting all my messages, replies or retweets. I understand that the language people use to refer to twitter is a form of slang but it is so embedded in our culture today that I would almost find it useful to have a translation.

I’d like my readers to know that I am sharing these blog posts with development at both Google and Twitter and any other application I decide to add to this experiment. I will not allow them to censor what I post but I would like to give them an opportunity to respond to issues before I post. Frequently, I communicate with Google and will post messages individually describing these problems in their preferred method of communication. The accessibility developer at Twitter happens to be one of my followers and I have already messaged him with one or two things that with his help I was able to sort out. Companies like these that not only put effort into accessibility but respond to customers are critical for the improvement of accessibility in our future.

To summarize, I think my first day with web 2.0 apps has gone better than expected. I did have a fear that I would revert to Outlook or the basic Gmail HTML as soon as I hit an insurmountable barrier. However I did not do so. What I did was move away from the problem and come back at it later in a different way. I was able to do this today because I took an official leave of absence from work and didn’t have any pressing work commitments. I did this intentionally so that I would have time to adapt to these new interfaces before getting back to work in five days.


Related Resources

Blog: An Experiment with Web 2.0 Applications | Read Lucy Greco's Article.

Publication: Putting e-Accessibility at the Core of Information Systems | Download Free PDF.

Event: Web Accessibility Training Day by NFB and Maryland Technology Assistance Program | View Event Details.