The problem with having two separate interfaces is that the one intended for the blind will never, ever get updates or new features. Gmail, in fact, did this, for a while. They still do have the basic HTML interface, AFAIK. It offers no translation, no address book autocomplete, none of the new features for marking and filtering messages (important, etc), and generally hasn't been given a single update since the day it was released. Thankfully, the standard Gmail interface is now accessible, so blind users generally get the new features around the same time as everyone else. This is a story that repeats itself over, and over, and over again. When I see a link for a text-only or accessible interface, to anything at all, I can safely assume it's at least 3 years out of date, and/or missing important features and information. If you're doing web apps, going the different but equal rout just doesn't work, and isn't needed. If you're doing more complicated stuff, it can still usually be avoided; QT5 includes accessibility support, Java has accessibility toolkits, as do the various Windows and mac platforms. Off-hand, the only app I can think of where I use and want a different interface from sighted users is Calibre, and I'm not sure that my preference to use the command-line conversion tools really counts as a separate interface, per say.
I was under the impression that the W3C testing would, in fact, catch things like layout tables, etc. But maybe I'm thinking of Wave or one of the other testing tools?
Regardless, your statement that Jaws, or any other screen reader on the market, ignores stylesheets is just wrong. Using display:none and/or visibility:hidden will hide things from modern screen readers just fine. Thanks to the recent advances in things like WAI-ARIA, even dynamic content can be made to work, these days. I do almost all of my productive work in highly dynamic pages like Google Docs and Gmail, in fact. Even modern Flash players usually sort of work, at least on Windows, if you know how to move the focus to them correctly. Silverlight, on the other hand, is a nearly total failure.
Lastly, you seem, along with many other sighted designers, to make the assumption that blind people just sit down and start listening to a web page. That never happens. When a page loads, I'm generally told how many headings, links, landmarks, etc, the page has. I don't know any blind person who just starts reading a new page from the top. Generally, we just try and skip to whatever it is we're interested in. On news websites, navigate by heading (Slashdot), by landmark (Reddit), or by block of text usually get to the article fairly quickly. If I'm filling out a form, to reply to your comment, for example, I just hit e to skip from one edit field to the next. If Slashdot had a link at the top called "skip to main content", I doubt I'd even notice it. The few times I do notice those type of links, I don't use them, as the designer and I rarely agree about where the main content starts. If slashdot did have that style link, I suspect they'd put the anchor at "Reply to: Re:You Must Be New Here", even though I have 0 interest in that section of the page, as I just want to write my comment.
As a user, I feel like this kind of design is an artifact of designers who haven't memorized, and thus never use, the 20 or so hotkeys commonly used for navigating the web, never mind the hundreds of other keys needed to properly control a screen reader. And that's why I'm in favour of automated testing. All of these hotkeys depend on semantic layout, and most automated tests will at least catch missing alt-text, missing form labels, and other bad markup. They won't catch the people who use CSS styles on divs for headings, rather than the h1 tag, but at least if the alt-text is complete, it's possible to work-around that. Also, many sighted people spending an hour or so testing with a screen reader won't notice the lack of headings, or realize why that's important. In a world where the majority of pages fail even the automated tests, I'd rather push for everyone passing those, rather than taking half an hour with a screen reader they have no idea how to use, and deciding accessibility is just too hard.
The fact that you think the only porn on the internet is visual porn is just sooo cute. There is everything from relatively normal smut like literotica and the alt.sex.stories text repository, to the terrifyingly strange erotic fiction that every fan fiction archive contains about every property from Harry Potter to The Bible to My Little Pony. As a person who was born completely blind, I've never had any problems with a shortage of porn. And I'd much rather access it all in privacy with my screen reader, thanks.
On a more serious note, the fact that you find screen reader testing to be difficult is utterly meaningless. Try sitting a die-hard Windows user down with Vi or Emacs, and giving them two hours to write, edit, and print a complex document. You'll get no end of complaining about how difficult and impossible it is. But people who have used the software for 20 years will be just fine, thanks. Screen readers are the same way. I have never met a fully sighted access tester who even had the slightest idea how to use the screen reading software in real life. There is a reason that Jaws For Windows used to come with an audio manual on something like 12 tapes, with 90 minutes of content per tape. And even that didn't cover all of the keyboard shortcuts, tips, tricks, and advanced functions. I would estimate that well over fifty percent of even fully blind people just have no idea how to use their software. IMHO, if you can't hire a fully blind tester, and/or don't have any blind users who can give you feedback, just go with the W3C guidelines and automated tests, or whatever other tests and guidelines are available for your platform, and don't bother with sighted testers.
As a blind programmer, I, and I'm sure everyone on the blind programmers mailing list, would like to correct you about the impossibility of writing code. Writing code is the easy part; turn on punctuation in your screen reader, and/or use a braille display. Personally, the only language I have found myself utterly unable to use is Python; using whitespace to mean things is really, really, really bad for me. Without close braces or endifs, I find figuring out what level I'm at impossible. However, I know many, many successful blind programmers who laugh at my difficulty with, and hatred of, Python. I think the difference is that I'm self taught, and never indent or space my code correctly; if I need to work with a sighted person, I run my code through a code formatter to get it set up for them. Many blind programmers, who were formally taught usually by sighted teachers, indent code as a habit, so transitioning to a language where thinking about something the screen reader doesn't read explicitly is more natural for them.
The real challenge for a blind person is screen layout. Most tools today, especially from Apple and Microsoft, have these click and drag interface builders that just do *not* work. Several people have developed libraries, like Layout By Code, to help with this, but it's still a struggle. I find my best bet is to stick to the command line, or work inside other systems like Drupal, that will take care of layout for me.
You can still use the classic comment system under comment prefs, thank God; the ajaxy comment system bothers the hell out of screenreaders. Doing that will probably speed up your pages and get wget pulling all of your comments again. Slashcode is the only system that manages to screw up something Wordpress, Drupal, and everyone else in the world got right. I've found sites where I couldn't post comments for accessibility reasons, but slashdot is the only one where I can't read comments without a settings change. *sigh* Anyway, my ranting aside, once you go back to the classic comments system, the new layout is really nice, fast, and uncluttered.
Every OCR software I've ever heard of, including RTK, Finereader, Scansoft, and several open source projects, can cope with text that is upside down, sideways, or crooked. Just so long as it's all in the frame. I think perhaps the light versions of Omni Reader that come with consumer scanners won't do this, but it's because the software has been crippled to make a "light" version, not because it can't.
Incorrect. Bookshare only offers service to United States citizens, who are currently living inside the United States. Americans outside the country, or those of us who aren't Americans, are out of luck. One would assume this device will be sold internationally.
The purpose of the braille is so blind folks in cabs can withdraw cash. The cabby just needs to pull forward a little more, so you can reach it from the back seat instead of the front.
They already have:
Doesn't work for me, though; just not practical.
The N82 is already doing this, with software called the KNFB reader. The big issue with porting the KNFB Reader over to other phones is that, while some of them have a 5MP camera, none of them have a good enough flash. I'm not totally clear on why that's an issue, but apparently it is. I keep the phone close enough to the source (book/paper/whatever) that I don't really know why it wants the flash all the time, but it decides to use it in nearly every shot. The only time I didn't hear the flash activate was once when I was sitting outside in direct sunlight. I have an N82 with this software and use it daily. I now can't upgrade to any other phone, because the software won't run on anything else, and I use it all the time.
Yup. The screen reader I use has had an option called "ignore layout tables" since 1995. It also allows me to ignore iframes (do you realize how many ads I miss, that way? Hardly need adblock!), flash, and various other tags and atributes, at my whim. It can even skip repeated text, in order to take me right to the page content; when I click a link on a page, it compares the new page with the old one, and places the cursor after any text that is the same on both pages. Works well to skip menus and other crap.
It's a battle we've already lost. Go to:
and check any of the books by major publishers. If you scroll down a little, you see: "printing disabled. read aloud disabled." DRM is already used to do this. And bypassing the DRM is against the law. I suspect the Authors want Amazon to put DRM that will allow publishers to turn off the TTS feature.
It's only legal if you're in the US. Sad to see Startrek TOS, a series with many firsts, not be the first internationally available series from a TV network. Apparently, those in Canada and the UK still aren't officially allowed to watch startrek online.