First I’d like to apologize for not having posted more frequently on this topic of my Web 2.0 experiment. It’s now the middle of the month and I haven’t broken yet. . I had bad moment earlier this week where I almost had to give up, the details for that to come.
I’m very comfortable now in the standard view of Gmail. I can move through the view as quickly and as easily as I did through an Outlook inbox. I’ve actually seen some real benefits to the Gmail interface that were not available in Outlook. For example how many times have you started to reply to a message to only realize that you wanted to reply to all not just reply? Gmail has the facility to change this on the fly really quickly. Use shift plus tab when you are composing the message until you get to a field that says “message type”. This is the pull-down menu that you can arrow through that allows you to change the message from reply to all. You can also do the reverse or any option you might want. I find the labeling of the menu strange but otherwise it works really well.
I’m finding Firefox and NVDA to be an excellent combination. The built-in spellchecker for Firefox is not quite what I want is a spellchecker but I’m sure it will improve over time. A lot of the time the Firefox spellchecker just can’t figure out the word I’m looking for. I’ve now completely switch to NVDA as my primary screen reader. I still switch to Jaws every once in a while but it is less frequent every day. As I am learning the keystrokes and ways and NVDA works I use Jaws less and less. NVDA tends to require fewer keystrokes. In Jaws I constantly had to switch the virtual cursor on and off but NVDA switch is more reliably between browse and focus mode.
Now I will talk about the stress points. Earlier this week I needed to create a new document and went to do so in Google Docs. Unfortunately something changed in the doc’s interface that meant I was no longer able to read the text in the document or give feedback on what I was typing. As it worked perfectly just a day or two before I fought with it for quite a while Thinking that maybe I had done something wrong. However after extreme frustration I did reported to the Google accessible list and received confirmation that others were having the same problem. Here’s hoping that this can be reversed quickly so that I can continue using docs. I was able to put off that document but I still need to get it written and I may have to switch to word if the problem does not go away.
This week has been an awful week for me with computers in general. I’ve had no luck using any of the technology I want to use. Both my laptop and my desktop have been testing my tolerance and patience to no end. Recently our software management tool that we use on campus has decided it’s important to remind me about maintaining the best power scheme on my system possible. As I have no control over this on my desktop and my laptop is optimize the best I can I’m not sure why this particular software package insists on reminding me at least 10 to 12 times a day. Strangely enough when I asked a sighted person they don’t see that window at all. However what’s happening whenever the window appears to the screen reader is I am losing focus on the task I’m working on and sometimes I can’t recuperate. For example I sent a couple of email messages because I hit enter at the wrong time and the send button was in focus instead. I would think I was clicking on the dismiss for the alert but would push the send and the incomplete message would be sent instead.
Currently my suggestion for anyone is Gmail is usable and actually a lot of fun with a screen reader. Google Docs has a lot of potential and will allow people to collaborate in ways we have not yet thought of but this is still in the future for screen reader users. Saying this I am optimistic that that future isn’t very far away. Twitter works wonderfully as an application and I hope to see many improvements in the application for screen reader users in the near future. Step up your game twitter and add more developers to the accessibility project. The work that is been done is excellent but incomplete. There’s no reason why keyboard shortcuts should not work in private messaging the same way they do in other views. If I was talking to a newly blinded person today wanting to know how best to access the Internet and use these tools my
I would have to say I am going to probably keep using the standard view of Gmail when the month is up but we will see when that time comes. For now I am not finding it as hard as I expected it would be. It would be nice if this was a little easier but it can be done. I challenge all screen reader users to try it you may like it.