I want to follow up on a few things so that I can clarify and further explain my position on the statement I made in my presentation at @media 2005.
In one of my last slides, I made a statement that I want to be sure isn’t misquoted or taken out of context (yeah, right. Good luck). On one of my last slides, I said this:
If we are doing things right, we should be able to tell users of older screen reader software to turn JS off for more consistent experience.
I’ve been thinking this way for a while – I said the same thing when I was in Austin last month teaching at Accessibility University – and it is based on some recent accessibility and development work. Here’s a few key points.
- The theory behind Web Standards methodologies is that we can remove either or both the presentation and behaviour layers and still have plain content. If that is true (and it is true), then shouldn’t we be able to leverage that, and even encourage it, if it makes an experience better for some people?
- We are actually using this to deliver a better experience to screen reader users than a degraded one. That should be a good thing.
Before heading to @media, I did some quick testing with the latest and greatest version of JAWS. They’ve actually added a new feature that tells the user that there is “onmouseover” content available (provided they have the appropriate setting turned on). The user can then use the keystroke Ctrl+Enter to activate the onmouseover event handler, and the screen reader then seems to detect the change, tells the user on which line the page changed, who can then go to that line and read out the content that was “exposed” by the change.
What is really frustrating is that there are a lot of us that are going out of our way to do things the “right way” using Web Standards methodologies. The fact that screen reader software can’t do the “right thing” with what we’ve done the “right way” was a bit too much for me. And that is what drove me to my conclusion.
I’ve also started recommending that we start to set up orientation guides for sites, rather than help. Help is what you get after its already too late. An orientation guide is used up front to alert people to requirements, things they need to be aware of before they get lost or stuck. Perhaps we should be including things specifically for screen reader users in these guides so that we can help them optimize their experience?
More on this later – I have loads of testing that I want/need to do, but that will have to be it for now to start this off.