[access-uk] Jaws 7.10 and BBC News Page

Hi all,

Apologies to those who have seen this already.

However, if you are a JAWS 7.1 user, having problems with
certain web pages, the following may help you to resolve
them.  It's a very long posting, but informative.

George Bell. 

-----Original Message-----
From: jaws-uk-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:jaws-uk-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Tristram
Llewellyn
Sent: 14 July 2006 14:58
To: jaws-uk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [jaws-uk] Jaws 7.10 and BBC News Page

This post is about Jaws 7.10 and the BBC News website
www.bbc.co.uk/news and what may appear to users as a Jaws
bug when visiting this page.  Users of this page have been
experiencing problems with links appearing to either change
or repeat themselves when working their way down the page.
This is a longish post but I beg list members indulgence
here because it will take quite a few words to describe what
and why some of these issues are arising.  I have tried to
move the solution as close to the top of this post as I can,
if you can stay the course, there are goodies of a sort at
the end of it.
 

Those users who have downloaded Jaws 7.10 have certainly
noticed a change in the way Jaws handles the Internet.  What
I hope to do is explain why and offer a solution to the
specific issue mentioned above on the BBC News website.
Jaws 7.10 may appear by indication of version number only to
be a maintenance release consisting of bug fixes and odd
little feature.  There is in rather more going on beneath
the bonnet.  To employ a slightly more helpful metaphor
there has been some re-plumbing going on.  The result of
such developments however can result in some new puzzle that
takes a bit of solving.  Jaws 7.10 and the BBC News website
is such a beast.  Before going directly to the solution I
beg the reader's indulgence here to pad out an explanation
in order to give a wider picture.

 

So, what is the big deal with Jaws 7.10 and why doesn't it
do what Jaws 7.0 did on the web?  Users experiencing
problems with the Internet with Jaws 7.10 may ask why change
it if it was working so well.  Well, the thing is that it
was not.  Furthermore, as the web changes users will begin
to see more and more bits missing assuming Jaws support for
the web remains static.  Some list members will possibly
know already that there are things on the web that Jaws has
not been able to access.  For a wider but also somewhat
deeper understanding of this issue please see the "Some
Background" section a bit later on in this message, which
probably ensures it has an audience of about one or less.
However, I urge the reader to look in on it as it will round
out the detail that pertains to the more specific problems
experienced on the BBC News site which I will deal with now.

 

The BBC News website like many others makes use of Flash in
places.  Users of Jaws 7.0 are probably not aware of it
simply because Jaws simply does not see it.  On the other
hand, Jaws 7.10 can see this happening perfectly well and
therein lies our little puzzle.  

 

If you have not done so but would like to reproduce the
problem for yourself here are the steps:

 

Steps:

1. Go to www.bbc.co.uk

2. Down Arrow to the radio button that says UK version and
select it, then refresh the page.

3. On this page, select the "News" Link.

4. On the news page, go down past the two lists (The first
list has sports, weather, editor's blog, etc and the second
is languages).

5. Further down you now enter the news stories and links. As
you arrow through this with 7.1, you will find it reads some
items twice and sometimes it skips items. 

6. If you down arrow over a few links and then up arrow over
them you are getting different order of reading.  If you
load up 7.0 JAWS and try the same thing, it is flawless. 

 

The BBC News website is constructed in such a way that there
is something called a "news ticker" frame.  Inside this area
is a link to various stories that constantly updates
approximately every four seconds in a longish loop.  The
rest of the website is static conventional web page.  When
you use Jaws 7.0 on the site it strolls straight past this
news ticker, but Jaws 7.10 can see this.  Likewise, if you
have set your Jaws 7.10 back to legacy support you will get
the same effect as with Jaws 7.0.  If you have Jaws 7.10
running in "non legacy" mode then you may be able to sit on
the ticker line and at intervals press insert+up arrow to
read the line and you will hear that at intervals it
actually changes.

 

However the problems start further down when you cursor
through the stories as sometimes Jaws will seem to repeat
things.  You may now begin to see where things are going
wrong, because every time the ticker changes it distorts the
model of the page that you are reading by updating it, parts
of the site that previously did not move with Jaws 7.10 move
every time the ticker updates.  Knowledge of this fact now
helps us to arrive at some kind of solution that is
applicable to this site and potentially find wider
application to other sites where you experience a similar
problem.  The solution would be to stop the page from
refreshing with Jaws.  There is a feature in the Jaws
verbosity menu (insert+V) to do this under the letter R for
"Refresh page" which you can toggle with the spacebar to
"Refresh page off".  This is only a temporary adjustment,
but it will resolve the problem 

 

If you use this website a lot then it may be best to make
this setting permanent for this website domain.  That way
when you go it you will not have this problem whilst still
having the ability on other websites to leave the pages to
update themselves where this does not cause problems.
Pressing shift+insert+V will give you a dialogue set of
options similar to the verbosity menu you can customize any
option here the way you want it for this domain.  In this
case, you want to press letter R for "refresh page" and
toggle it off.  When you are done, tab to the "execute"
button and press spacebar on it.  Now every time you go to
the BBC your page refreshes will be stopped and you will
regain stable access to the BBC.

 

In brief conclusion, the behaviour of Jaws 7.10 on the BBC
News page is not really a bug but a feature of the new way
Jaws accesses the Internet.  At times this will impact upon
how Jaws performs but this new form of access can be tamed
by use of the "refresh page" feature in the verbosity menu,
and it also provide potential for improved access as well.

 

Some Background

 

The purpose of this bit is to give an insight into how
screen readers and most particularly Jaws is working.
Whilst realising that this sort of thing is not for everyone
I think it would be worth a mention.  I hope by construction
of this text that I satisfy the need for immediacy without
sacrificing a deeper understanding.  I intend not to baffle
but provide an insight into the universe that the screen
reader user inhabits and in that way to render that world
more sensible and less arbitrary.

 

You may have heard it said that screen readers intercept
information; you may have even heard the term video
interceptor before or even on this list.  The point about
this is that screen readers are about information, where you
get it from and how you format and convey it to the user.
In the beginning in a far distant past of MS-DOS life was
relatively simple for a screen reader develop, catch
messages sent to screen via BIOS, monitor the keyboard, stay
within the rather tight limits of memory you were afforded.
OK, that is a rather simplistic description that belies the
tremendous early efforts of companies like Henter-Joyce but
also not forgetting Dolphin Systems in the UK.  Even getting
live screen reading or key echo as we would expect it to be
was a real task.  

 

The concept I want to get over is that even from the
beginning a key part of screen reading was obtaining
information, often surreptitiously from the computer for the
purposes of screen reading.  Likewise Jaws et al today are
intercepting all sorts of messages that the operating system
generates to allow things to work.  These messages are
by-and-large not intended for Jaws or any other screen
reader.  With the notable exception of MSAA they are all
more or less a by-product of the system doing its job.
However, it is also convenient and helpful in some cases for
Jaws to intercept these and attempt to decode those messages
because they are relevant to the events on screen that Jaws
needs to relay to the user.  

 

Therefore, we have not just one but a number of different
sources of information Jaws plugs into, from the video
interceptor and GDI interface through to MSAA.  Because none
of these sources yields perfect or complete information Jaws
sometimes tries to stitch together these difference sources
of info in order to create a full and accurate picture.
However, there are still situations where Jaws misses out
altogether and there is no information at all.

 

A while back developers at FS were aware of these things,
and dealing also with the problem of how to provide
consistent support for Internet Explorer 6.0, Firefox and
Acrobat Reader without having to re-write support from
scratch for each of these applications.  Equally,
technologies like JavaScript, XML and applications used over
the web known as AJAX threaten to snatch access to web from
screen reader users.  Therefore, support would have to be
substantially re-written in order not loose the plot. 

 

Rather than create an entirely new technology the developers
at FS have exploited a relatively recent development known
as Document Object Modelling.  Previously software could be
written to expose certain parts of their inner workings to
the operating system for direct enquiry, this is chiefly
responsible for the sophisticated support for Microsoft
Office Jaws has about it.  The newer Document Object Model
(or DOM for short) goes somewhat further.  This is in
essence a way to allow applications to work with documents
down to a very detailed level representing them as objects
within the operating to be queried and manipulated.  This is
not limited by any means to Jaws in fact it is more that
Jaws has only recently moved into this area of document
management.  

 

What FS had to do is to create a way of extracting this
information from the Document Object Model so that it is
compatible with Jaws and eventually rendered to the user in
a form they can understand.  A side effect of this process
is that more things become available to view by this
process.  In theory, anything that writes into the Document
Object Model may be available for Jaws too.  This means that
there are likely to be quirks like the example of BBC News
website, but it also means there is real potential to get
hold of other information that previously was beyond reach.
A noticeable but perhaps not very useful side effect of this
support is accuracy, Jaws cursor routing will now far more
accurately locate on screen the position of the virtual PC
cursor.  


Regards.

Tristram Llewellyn
Sight and Sound Technology
Technical Support
www.sightandsound.co.uk

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