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Lucy Greco

  Accessibility in Education

09/03/2014

Progress on the 30-Day Web 2.0 Experiment

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In the third installment of this series, web accessibility expert Lucy Greco offers a review of using Web 2.0 apps with a screen reader.

my experience in using a screen reader to access Web 2.0 apps

Image: My experience in using a screen reader to access Web 2.0 apps

Let’s Begin With Good News: I now feel very comfortable using the standard view of Gmail’s inbox. I can move through the view as quickly and easily as I did while using Outlook. I have actually seen some real benefits to the Gmail interface. For example, how many times have you started to reply to a message to only realize that you wanted to “reply to all”? Gmail has the facility to change this on the fly really quick. Use Shift plus tab when you are composing the message until you get to a field that says "message type". This is the pull-down menu that you can arrow through that allows you to change the message from “reply” to “reply to all”. You can also do the reverse or any option you might want. I find the labeling of the menu strange but otherwise it works really well.

Coming to browsers, Firefox and NVDA have turned out to be an excellent combination. The built-in spellchecker for Firefox is not quite what I want but I’m sure it will improve over time. I have now completely switched to NVDA as my primary screen reader, the chief benefit being it requires fewer keystrokes. While using JAWS earlier, I had to constantly switch the virtual cursor on and off. In contrast, NVDA switch is more reliable between the “browse” and “focus” mode.

Now I will talk about the stress points. Earlier this week I needed to create a new document and did so in Google Docs. Unfortunately, something changed in the Doc’s interface that meant I was no longer able to read the text in the document or give feedback on what I was typing. Following some more trial and error, I reported to the Google Accessibility list and received confirmation that others were facing the same issue. If the glitch isn’t sorted soon, I may have to switch to Microsoft Word.

Recap of Web 2.0 Apps: Currently my suggestion for anyone who wants to switch to Google’s email client is that Gmail is usable and actually a lot of fun with a screen reader. Google Docs, though it has a lot of potential and allows people to collaborate in ways we have not yet thought of, is still glitchy for screen reader users (I am optimistic that this will soon be sorted out). Twitter works wonderfully as an application and I hope to see many improvements in the application for screen reader users in the near future. There’s no reason why keyboard shortcuts should not work in private messaging the same way they do in other views. Step up your game twitter and add more developers to the accessibility project!

Now for the Bad News: This week has been an awful one in terms of using computers in general. Both my laptop and my desktop have been testing my patience. Recently our software management tool that we use on campus (UC Berkeley, where I work) has decided it’s important to remind me about maintaining the best power scheme on my system! I have no control over this and the message pops up at least 10-12 times a day. Whenever the message pops up, the screen reader reads it and I end up losing focus on what I was working on. For instance, I thought I was clicking on the ‘dismiss button’ for the Power Scheme alert but ended up sending a couple of incomplete emails as the ‘send’ button was in focus.

Please write in with your comments and feedback. How have my readers been using Web 2.0 apps?  

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Related Resources

Blog: Working With Web 2.0 Applications: A Blind User's Review | Read Lucy Greco's Article.

Publication: Model Policy for Inclusive ICTs in Education for Persons with Disabilities | Download Free PDF.

Event: 9th Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF 2014) | Istanbul, Turkey - September 2-5, 2014 | View Event Details.