Scott Hanselman

Hanselminutes Podcast 125 - Accessibility in Web and Rich Applications

August 09, 2008 Comment on this post [6] Posted in ASP.NET | Podcast | Windows Client | WPF
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Saqib My one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth podcast is up. In this episode Scott talks to Saqib Shaikh, a developer for Microsoft Consulting Services in the UK, who is also blind. They chat about accessibility in Windows, on the Web and in the next generation of Web Applications written with AJAX and Silverlight.

UPDATE: Here's Saqib, Dan and I on Channel 9 talking about accessibility. Saqib gives a demo of how he uses his Windows Mobile phone without sight.

Saqib Shaikh and Scott Hanselman: Designing for Accessibility

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Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

* Picture of Saqib from James Senior's blog.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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August 09, 2008 19:10
Good show on accessibilty. Something I think that typically falls in the "lipstick on the pig" category, but we need to focus on it early on.

I found just yesterday some design templates from microsoft which also had a word doc that goes into some of the accessibility resasons.
August 10, 2008 1:39
Saqib Shaikh's comments about accessibility helping people who are not disabled reminded me of this quote from Elliotte Rusty Harold's Refactoring HTML book:

Wheelchair ramps are far more commonly used by parents with strollers, students with bicycles, and delivery people with hand trucks than they are by people in wheelchairs. When properly done, increasing accessibility for the disabled increases accessibility for everyone.
August 10, 2008 16:08
sorry, scott, having trouble with captcha, so decided to test against your site
August 12, 2008 4:27

This was one of the best shows in a while as far as hitting me with something new. It would be great, if Saqib provided us with his top 10 Vista keyboard shortcuts. Sounds like it would be useful for everyone.
August 14, 2008 21:27
From my experience we have a long way to go with accessibility and Vista has in fact made things worse. I want to ask your guest the following:
1. What do you think about the quality of Narrator? Do you find it reasonable for Microsoft not to create a better and still simple screen reader in all those years?
For me Narrator in Vista is very very slow, does not work with the Web, does not offer any useful features (is too too too basic), has some very strange and useless shortcuts (insert+ctrl+g anyone?) and generally is not at all what you expect after 5 years in development. In fact, from the year 2000 Narrator has largely remained the same.
2. What is your opinion about other operating systems' accessibility? The Mac now has Voice Over and Linux has Orcat. What is your opinion about those screen readers compared to Jaws or Narrator, etc? Also, have you used the free and open source NVDA screen reader on Windows and what is your opinion about it?
For me it is simply amaizing what the above other screen readers offer given that they are all free. NVDA especially is open source, gets continuously updated and unlike Jaws can work with the latest versions of popular applications without having to pay every year an extra charge to get a new version. Why isn't in your opinion Microsoft stopping this state of affairs by which we have to pay 1100$+ to get a screen reader like Jaws which is extremely professional but whose features we might not all need, whilst Narrator is so useless?
3. What is your opinion of the Vista interface?
In my case I found many inconsistencies in Vista when using the keyboard, inconsistencies that make me think that Vista is like it is an unfinished product.
4. Do you like the new Office 2007 interface?
For me it is very good and accessible, but not as fast to navigate as the previous versions of Office. A keyboard shortcut for jumping from grouping to grouping on the ribbon would be useful. When I say grouping I mean that within each tab of the ribbon, controls are divided into groups. Using always tab to cicle through all the controls to get to a specific one, without a key that would jump through groups is time consuming.
5. Most importantly, what is your opinion of the Windows Live sites and software?
For me, the software has accessibility issues, like the Live Messenger contact list and the Live web sites are a mess compared to Google. The sites are not simple, have too many links that leave me wondering what they are used for (like on Live Spaces), are slow compared to Google and are inconsistent.
6. How do you think that accessibility of Microsoft sites and software can be improved? Especially the Live sites can learn a lot from Google's simple and consistent interface, an interface which is not overloaded with meaningless links like the site is, an interface which makes it clear to the users of its design structure and logic. To whom do we need to talk to within Microsoft to improve these issues? Do you know anyone? For me I have been telling the Live Messenger group for many times about accessibility issues with WL Messenger for example and version after version the same issues have not been addressed. It is like they are all deff in this company. We are blind but they are deff.
August 20, 2008 0:12
Very interesting show. The idea that automation is something generic and accessibility is a specific form of automation was pretty eye-opening. I also found the topic of user-agent sniffing to be pretty interesting. It sounds like Saqib doesn't necessarily mind sharing that he is blind. Others in the disabled community might want to keep that information private. That sounds a lot like the type of information that Windows CardSpace and OpenID are intended to manage. You might be OK with telling some websites that you are disabled, but might want to keep that information a secret from the internet at large.

Is there a conventional HTTP header that can be used to indicate accessibility restrictions? Is there a specific HTTP header that informs web sites to serve content that has been tuned for screen readers? Compared to user-agent sniffing, this seems like it would be a more flexible and privacy-friendly way to pass this information to the server.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.