Author Topic: Accessibility in applications, my point of view  (Read 380 times)

Offline azslow3

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1081
Accessibility in applications, my point of view
« on: July 03, 2017, 04:04:22 PM »

Observing declared accessibilities in almost all modern OS, general user can come to the conclusion a lot is done for people with some kind of limits. Corresponding options on streets, buildings, museums, prescriptions for web site design, etc. give the feeling we have done everything we could to make things accessible. That is a good feeling we have not left anyone alone with the problem. One of the win points in modern democracy, tolerance and culture.

But everyone who is in some physiological aspect at least a little bit unusual knows, as with advertisements, the declarations are far away from the reality.

I am usual person. I have both hands, I have good coordination, I can see and I do not need glasses, I do not get a headache looking at changing pictures. My only tiny divination from a "normal" person is the perception of the colors. I see colors, but not so clear as "normal". Think about something between looking at colors late evening without extra light, when everyone no longer distinguish them precisely, and pure gray-scale TV. Is that some sort of disability? In general not at all. Apart from "no go" jobs like chemistry, medicine and professional cooking, I have never felt myself limited. But you will be surprised how many parts of software applications for many purpose, from games to installers, are quite hard to deal with for me and other such people. I repeat, my deviation from "normality" is so tiny it almost does not exist. People can immediately reply: why not use hi contrast schemes or special mode for people with such problems? If someone think so, try to change into that modes. Are they ugly? For me they are. Yet the solution is simple! It comes from the consequence of that physiological deviation. People with less color sensors have more light sensors. So, just checking there is some luminance difference in 2 interface colors will solve the problem. One screen-shot converted to gray scale will show that. Change selected item color from light red to a little bit darker red when not selected color is light green. No one in the world will complain about the change, no extra time investment, no second color scheme. That easy! Yet almost no one is doing that...

And when someone can not use monitor at all, the situation is worse. It is much worse. Modern software trend is less accessibility, I have tried to understand the reason and here are my conclusions.

I think near everyone has heard about Screen Readers. Corresponding option, Text To Speech, jumps on everyone as the first option in Accessibility settings. What is not explicitly exposed it the fact Screen Readers can not read the screen. That sounds strange, is not it? Screen readers can read the text, while screen is an image. So screen readers can read the text behind the screen, in specially prepared or implicitly available form.

To be accessible, an application should have 2 properties. It should support complete control with computer keyboard only, so without mouse. And it should expose everything presented on the screen in a text form throw implicit or explicit accessibility software interfaces. For example any application inform OS about window title in the text form, so OS can display it in the title bar, in the running applications list, etc. That is common for all applications, so any screen reader can pronounce any application title. But as soon as an application draw something itself, the text is unknown till explicitly saved for accessibility purpose, even when it is explicitly visible on the screen.

OS native controls support required accessibility properties, including keyboard operations and the text form for control context. That is why old pure Win32 interface applications are accessible by default, without any explicit intent from the developer. Till the developer forgot about correct tabstop order, that happens quite often. Fortunately, missing tabstops in particular applications can be post fixed inside Screen Reader code. In reality each screen reader comes with a big set of such fixes for many common applications.

Unfortunately modern applications, following common users wishes, try to be more and more graphically interesting. Often the look is the measure of the quality, even when it has nothing to do with the software purpose. For example music applications and plug-ins are getting "outdated" status in case they are Win32 graphics based. The only purpose of that software is to produce sound, the graphic has absolutely no influence on sound. Yet people judge that software by its look. Interesting that most industry and commerce related interfaces are rather conservative in graphics. Even graphics targeting applications are quite conservative in the graphics of the application itself. Yet musicians are probably looking for inspiration in colorful pictures when they write/work with the sound.

People are using software with mouse only. At most with mouse and keyboard shortcuts. When have you seen a computer without mouse attached for the last time? The invasion of touch sensitive screens make keyboard obsolete for everything except explicitly entering the text. So even most common used applications are no longer tested for keyboard only interaction.

In the music world, there are at least 2 "fighting" platforms. So software producers use multi-platform frameworks to make the code working on all devices without modification. Unfortunately, most if not all common used multi-platform frameworks have forgotten about accessibility. In both properties. They do not support keyboard operations and they do not have exposed text representation for control elements.

Finally, world most famous Screen Reader is one of the most expensive end-user applications and explicitly forbid common software developers use it for testing without paying complete price. I mean this screen reader developers do not want developed software is compatible with it... How that can be? What is the reason? I still can not imagine a single argument for such behavior, except marketing. Fortunately, free to use Screen Readers exist and popular.

And so, taking all written into account:

* We, common users, are forcing software developers create picture only applications without keyboard support. Even when that is as important as the outside color of our cars.
* So common music plug-in framework developers do not want spend time to make there libraries accessible. The market is too small, so that is financially irrelevant.

Re-read the first paragraph of this post... Do you still have that good feeling about accessibility? I think I was fooling myself thinking so.

Offline gadeuvall2000

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 10
Re: Accessibility in applications, my point of view
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2017, 05:39:51 PM »
I can honestly say that for these high dollar screen readers, they  don't even provide enough    thought as to what they can do.   Granted they are good screen readers for what they do, they are still too limited to be worth their price tags..