Test your webpages with an online screen reader
November 10, 2008 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Working on ADA compliance? Wondering how readers for the blind parse your webpages? Feed them into WebAnywhere, an online screen reader. Unlike other solutions, it is not a browser plugin and is free.
posted by Foam Pants (7 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Excellent. Thanks for the link!
posted by ardgedee at 2:12 PM on November 10, 2008

Cool. I have a friend who really needs to be online (why? Well, cuz I say so, dammit.) who is not only functionally blind, but a technophobic megaluddite of the highest order.

He owns an astonishing number of CDs. He accessed them by having their location memorized (with enough light and a powerful magnifying glass, he can just make out some text, but obviously has a problem with metal bands, whose logos a hawk couldn't decipher with a reference book).

The he got an iPod. And we began the months-long process of digitizing his collection. Now it's all at his fingertips, all the time.

And his resistance began to melt a bit.

But he HATES his computer, he HATES not being able to read websites, and he HATES iTunes (can't blame him there).

This could be a nifty little tool for a guy like that.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:19 PM on November 10, 2008

Maybe he'd hate them less if he didn't purposely hamstring his experience. I'm sure vision-impaired folks would prefer not to have to use this.

That said, this is fantastic! Thank you!
posted by basicchannel at 2:33 PM on November 10, 2008

Hey, this has been down various blind mailing lists for a few months - is it actually working now? Good stuff.

You might also, if online programs are your thing, like to check out:
  • System Access to Go - a complete online screenreader, reads your machine. I've read favourable things about it.
  • IT Zooms - free online version of the Lightning Screenreader, download and run, works for one day (disclaimer: this is my company)

    Offline, I'd suggest the WebbIE text browser, the open-source NVDA screenreader, and the Thunder screenreader. Disclaimers again: WebbIE is me, and Thunder is my company.

    Which leads me to a quibble: if you're sighted, and you can see the page you're testing and how it is laid out, you're not really getting the blind experience. You can't help but cheat and look, and of course you know where you're heading. Use a linearising text browser like WebbIE, lose your visual formatting cues and suddenly you'll understand why the LABEL element is so important, why "^" is a stupid way to link to Wikipedia, why frames suck, and why having 140 links before the main text content without an H1 element is evil. More here: WebbIE for sighted web designers.

  • posted by alasdair at 2:39 PM on November 10, 2008 [7 favorites]

    alasdair, I can't favorite that comment any harder.
    posted by letitrain at 4:12 PM on November 10, 2008

    I sat in on a meeting of various state webmasters (state worker here) where a blind user demonstrated JAWs. Watching, er, listening to someone who is a proficient with the program was a real eye-opener. I could barely follow along as the guy zoomed through pages. It really was an entirely different way of experiencing a website.
    posted by Foam Pants at 4:43 PM on November 10, 2008

    BitterOldPunk, Web sites and iTunes are not, in general, inaccessible. Why not start him on an inexpensive Mac?
    posted by joeclark at 3:08 PM on November 11, 2008

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