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We hope you've been enjoying meeting some of the members of our team at Web Key IT, and giving them the opportunity to share some of their thoughts, interests and experience in the world of website accessibility.
 
This month, we'd like you to meet our very own
lovely Zel Iscel.

photo of Zel smiling
Zel is a Usability Tester at Web Key IT. Zel’s role at Web Key is to test the accessibility of websites for screen reader users. Occasionally Zel also visits clients of Web Key IT to provide a live usability test on their website. This is not only eye-opening for the clients but for Zel as well as she has gained an insight into the joys and frustrations of web developers. Zel also runs her own consultancy, ‘Inclusive World’ where she provides disability awareness training, training in JAWS and Voiceover screen reading software, and support and advice in projects around disability inclusion.
 

JAWS vs NVDA

Screen reading software, such as JAWS and NVDA, allow people with a print disability to access the information on the screen by verbalising it. Print disabilities include dyslexia, intellectual and learning disabilities, vision impairment and, as in my case, blindness. I have been blind from birth and have been using screen readers since 1995. Jaws and NVDA are the screen readers I now use.
There are a few differences between Jaws and NVDA that I will discuss briefly in this article. These relate to cost, licensing restrictions and functions – namely OCR (Optical Character Recognition,) Skim Reader and Text Analyser. I began using JAWS (Job Access for Windows Speech), produced by Freedom Scientific, In the late ‘90’s. It was, and still is, the market leader in screen readers although the margin between it and others is now much narrower.
 
About seven years ago, NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access), produced by the NV Access Project, began to develop into a powerful contender for JAWS. Today, NVDA provides almost as much access as JAWS to some of the most popular Windows applications including: Microsoft Word, Excel and Internet Explorer.
 
Jaws is an expensive screen reader, with the price starting from around $1,500.00 AUD (Australian Dollars.) It is thus unaffordable to many and has licensing restrictions. One such restriction is the JAWS demo which can only be used for 45 minutes at a time. In order to continue using JAWS for a further 45 minutes, the computer must be rebooted. NVDA on the other hand, is free of charge. It can be downloaded onto almost any Windows computer and used without restriction.
 
I have attempted to install the JAWS demo on several computers over the years but have had little success. So, I was pleasantly surprised recently, when I easily gained access to, and navigated around a client’s database on one of their computers using NVDA. Being able to work independently without using my own assistive technology gave me a sense of elation that kept me flying high for the rest of that day.  While Jaws is expensive, it comprises some useful additional features such as Text Analyser and Skim Reader. Text Analyzer, when activated, alerts the reader when there is a change in the font or when a punctuation is not used properly, such as when a bracket is not closed. This is useful as it allows the documents we create to be more presentable.
 
The Skim Reader feature allows me to scan a document by reading the first line or first sentence of each paragraph. That summary can also be copied and pasted into another document. This is very useful for students or jobs where reading long documents is required. JAWS also features OCR, which converts images into text, but this feature does not work well yet. Freedom Scientific promises that it will be significantly improved in the next version, JAWS 2018, which is due for release any time now.
 
Another useful feature that JAWS has is Speech History. This feature allows us to access, copy and paste anything that JAWS speaks. This is very useful as some alerts, such as error messages, are only read once and are otherwise not accessible. With the ability to copy and paste these messages, we are better able to get help when required.
 
NVDA has a very similar feature to Speech History called Speech Viewer. While NVDA does not have the skim reader, OCR recognition and Text Analyser, it is still a very effective screen reader. Like Jaws, NVDA can provide information about the font as required – size, type, colour, etc. There are also other ways to read quickly through text and other alternatives for converting images into text. NVDA has developed very fast and I’m confident that features like OCR recognition will be available in the future. In some ways NVDA is ahead of JAWS. NVDA, for instance, made Windows 10 accessible to blind and vision impaired computer users before JAWS.
 
In summary, both JAWS and NVDA are very good screen readers. While JAWS has useful additional features, the availability of other solutions allows NVDA to remain a strong contender. This is vital as NVDA allows access to blind and vision impaired computer users who cannot afford to purchase a screen reader. JAWS is still the preferred choice for many, I believe because JAWS is so well established.

Upcoming Events

Women in Technology (WiTWA) Techxchange
25th of October 2017
5:30-7:30pm
The Globe, 495-497 Wellington Street, Perth WA
Dr Suzanne Bahn, CEO of Tap into Safety “Starting a new venture – the journey, pitfalls and successes”
To Register for this WiTWA event click here

ACS Reimagination 2017 & Digital Disrupters Awards Night
2nd of November 2017
The Star, Sydney NSW
Registrations end 31 October, click here

OZeWAI – Celebrating 20 Years of OZeWAI
20-22nd of November 2017
Australian National Botanic Gardens and the 50MC Theatre, Canberra
Last call for presentations close October 1, 2017
Registrations are now open for OZeWAI, click here 
 
Monthly Perth Web Accessibility Meetup
28th of November 2017
Dome Cafe, 149 James Street, Northbridge
Read more about the Accessibility Meetup group here

ACS CIO Breakfast
30th of November 2017
Contact Alexandra Mollo here for details and registration
 
ACS Annual Diversity Dinner
8th of December 2017
Crown, Perth WA
Keynote speaker: Dr Vivienne Conway
Registration for this Dinner is NOW OPEN here
 
Perth Web Accessibility Camp
15th of February 2018
Perth, WA
Contact Vivienne here if you’d like to be involved in the planning
 
ACS CIO Breakfast
28th of March 2018
Contact Alexandra Mollo here for details and registration
 
W4A 2018
22nd-24th of April 2018
Lyon, France
Call for Papers will be released soon, so start planning to present
Click here for information on W4A & registration

The WEB Conference 2018
(previously known as WWW Conference)
23rd-27th of April 2018
Lyon, France
Volunteer applications close 30 October, 2017
Details for submissions will be available soon
Click here for information on The WEB & registration
 

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