[bct] Should we do a chat on improving software accessibility?

  • From: "Debee Norling" <debee@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Blindcooltech@Freelists. Org" <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 22:27:18 -0700

Short version: a Saturday evening chat on strategies for communicating with
developers about how to make their software more accessible. Does this
interest people? Should I lead it?

Long version:  I am in desperate need of a DVD-Writer. My husband has one if
I get super desperate, but I need one at work, where I scan books for a
living so need a way to archive them, no fuss, no muss. I'm sick and tired
of CDS and the Windows XP CD writing wizard.

So yeah, you're saying, shop for a DVD-Writer; do a little research, buy
one, get boss to reimburse you, problem solved.

Ok, so I shopped. I shopped in the store, I shopped online. There are a ton
of DVD-Writers out there.

Every single one comes bundled with some DVD-writing software. Some got Nero
6, some got Nero 7, some got Nero Express, some got Nero something else.
Some got a software suite from NTI. Some got a Roxio product. There about
twenty different versions of Roxio burning thingies. Many come with software
I've never heard of.

And by the way, when my husband, a sighted electrical engineer and
experienced computer user, installed a scaled-down Nero that came with his
writer, it dragged in a lot of junk like the Yahoo toolbar, which he didn't
want and had trouble removing. His Nero also clobbered Safe Mode, a known
bug he read about online, and it took him hours to get his system back to
the way it was before. I love bundled software!!!

So, already I've used about six different CD-burning programs and my
favorite one is the Linux command line tool. Rick did a great job with Nero,
but who knows if the Nero that comes with the DVD-Writer I buy is even close
to the Nero that he reviewed. The "express" and "limited" versions of a
product often have a completely different interface.

So, OK, I figure I'll just download some shareware and pick an accessible
burner that will probably work with the hardware I plan to buy. Yesterday I
downloaded and tried three programs, "Swift Burning Wizard" "Deep Burner"
and "Zip backup to CD". All were reviewed as having a very bare-bones
interface, using few system resources and being particularly good for
archiving files.

All of them wanted to "create projects" "create a data CD" "build a CD
Image" and were set up for you to drag and drop icons hither and thither.
They could create auto-run scripts and playlists and for all I know kitchen
sinks. Why does software have all this extra and unnecessary complexity! I
want to just select my files, and click a write to CD button. I don't want
to create projects and mess around with a ton of dialog boxes.  I want the
program to be smart enough to cope when my data fills more than one CD. Like
why can't a program just tell you that it will need 4 CDS and start burning.

All three of these supposedly simple programs weren't simple, and more
important, were not very accessible. With a lot of poking around, I could
burn a CD, but to do it on a daily basis, in a busy work environment where I
am constantly interrupted, forget it!

Then I listened to Tony's cast about the inaccessibility of Spyware
removers -- I have a rebuttal for that, but that's a different story -- and
I felt very frustrated. The reality is that software is a lot less
accessible than it used to be.

So to fight back, we need to find ways to communicate with developers in
language they understand about the problem. It isn't enough to say, "Dear
Mr. Programmer: your software doesn't work with JAWS". We need to tell them
exactly what doesn't work, why and how to fix it.

I propose that since I like to write, and know how to program, sort of
anyway,  that I write a draft letter to developers and then we do a
brainstorming chat and all attempt to improve it.

Once we have a good letter, we can easily tailor it for our individual
needs, and send it off to developers when we try to use an inaccessible
program. I'd concentrate on shareware and low-cost software that is sold by
small companies online. For example, I'd talk to Patrick about Spybot before
I'd talk to Symantech about Norton Anti-virus.

Your thoughts, please. Should we do a chat on this? Should I craft up a


* The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has

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