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Microsoft Cellphones Handhelds Operating Systems Windows

Microsoft Backtracks On Accessibility In Windows Phone 7 54 54

beetle496 writes "One of the things Microsoft has done well for many years now (since they got called on the carpet about Windows 95) is providing compatibility with assistive technology used by the blind. Their current push is for a set of APIs called User Automation. Many of us in the field have remained skeptical of the early promises, especially those related to cross-platform compatibility. The news that Microsoft is now backtracking is disappointing, but hardly surprising. It looks like IAccessible2 is the way to go."
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Microsoft Backtracks On Accessibility In Windows Phone 7

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  • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday December 13, 2010 @09:16PM (#34541912) Homepage

    I've heard they really love the iPhone. Here [behindthecurtain.us] is an example article.

    When I was in school a few years ago I had a blind gentlemen in a few of my classes. I remember him telling me about how hard (and insanely expensive) it was to get a new cell phone (Symbian based) that included voice software so he could use the menus and such, and that it was basically pretty bad.

    The iPhone works as a phone, a web browser, a music player, a compass, and tons of other things, and doesn't cost $3k.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Monday December 13, 2010 @09:30PM (#34542022)

    I've heard they really love the iPhone. Here is an example article.

    Reading that article tells me that the enthusiastic user isn't blind. He's legally blind.

    One of the problems /. (and the world in general) has with blindness is that we forget that many (perhaps even most??) of the people categorized as blind can still see. They just see very poorly.

    However, in terms of accessibility of devices, and things like internet access its a huge difference. We think of the blind and then try to imagine someone ourselves operating a touch screen with our eyes closed and no tactile feedback at all and naturally scoff at the absurdity of it.

    But try squinting your eyes almost shut so you can still see the phone, but can't read anything on it. Your now "legally bind", but you can still make out the little blobs for the apps... you can pick them out easily by touch -- identifying them by position and colour. A bit of slick software to read out the text you that you can see is there but can't actually make out by double-tapping it... and voila... a very useful device.

  • TFA vs TFS (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trelane (16124) on Monday December 13, 2010 @09:56PM (#34542212) Journal

    Summary:

    One of the things Microsoft has done well for many years now (since they got called on the carpet about Windows 95) is providing compatibility with assistive technology used by the blind. Their current push is for a set of APIs called User Automation.

    Article:

    For the [non-minor visual, physical, and audio as well as any other] disabilities, access is via an assistive technology (AT) that mediates the user experience. This is where our the accessibility challenges lie. The challenges stem from the fact that Microsoft Windows doesn't provide a real accessibility infrastructure - as compared to UNIX systems with GNOME, the Java platform, or Macintosh OS X. In Windows, virtually all of the information needed by assistive technologies has to be obtained by patching the operating system, replacing/chaining video drivers, reverse engineering applications, and/or using proprietary COM interfaces to get at the data within an application. The first accessibility API Microsoft put forth for accessibility - Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) - fails to provide most of the information needed for screen reading and other AT uses, and is being supplanted in future Windows releases. What this means is that for an application to be accessible in Microsoft Windows via a particular assistive technology, that AT vendor has to have made a significant investment in customizing their product to that application. The greater the customization investment, the "more accessible" an application is deemed to be, at least via that particular AT. For example, the Windows screen reader with the largest market share, JAWS, has made a huge investment in customization of their product to Microsoft Office (and in contrast made a much smaller investment in customization for WordPerfect). For this reason blind folks generally feel that Microsoft Office is "accessible" (and that WordPerfect "isn't as accessible") - not because of work done by Microsoft or Corel, but work done (or not done) by Freedom Scientific, the creator of JAWS.

    Quoth http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_UI_Automation [wikipedia.org]

    In 2005, Microsoft released UIA as a successor to the older Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) framework.

    Seems to be a decade missing there.

  • by arb phd slp (1144717) on Monday December 13, 2010 @10:33PM (#34542412) Homepage Journal

    Users who are using Voiceover aren't responding to colored blobs, they are using Voiceover's auditory scanning. It reads aloud what is on the screen, such as the labels on the icons, and the user doubletaps anywhere on the screen to select one. You don't have to see the screen at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @07:16AM (#34544616)

    Apple. They have a screen reader integrated into their OS, and it is actually quite useable.

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