Posted by Harald van Breederode on November 12, 2009
On November 6th MyOracleSupport went into production to replace Metalink. MyOracleSupport is build using Flash technology which isn’t totally accessible to visually impaired people who rely on screen-readers. Although Flash can be made accessible, it remains difficult to use in my opinion and I prefer using an HTML interface where available. When logging in to Metalink, one was offered a choice of using Flash or HTML interfaces and I believe most users preferred the HTML interface as did I.
When logging in to MyOracleSupport no choice is offered, but an HTML interface
is still available and is perfectly accessible to the blind and others who dislike using Flash.
Posted in Accessibility, Linux, Oracle | 10 Comments »
Posted by Harald van Breederode on March 22, 2009
Over the last two weeks several students advised me to switch from VMware Server to VirtualBox mainly because of better performance. So far I wasn’t unsatisfied by the performance of VMware, but if there is something freely available that is better I would be stupid to not give it a try.
Being a trainer I learned that reading documentation isn’t going to hurt you thus I first downloaded the manual, and after converting the PDF file to a Word document for better accessibility, I read through it and I was quite happy about the features I read about. Thus my first impression was very positive.
So yesterday I decided to give it a try and downloaded the software. After making a backup of my laptop I installed it. This went without any accessibility issues because the usage of a standard Windows installer which is quite accessible. During the installation the network was brought down, which was announced by the installer, but it failed to come up afterwards. Therefore the required registration process failed also. After a reboot things turned back to normal and I managed to finish the registration process although buttons were announced as edit fields. This raised my doubts about the accessibility.
Next I tried to build a new virtual machine using the GUI interface and this is where I gave up because this thing is almost totally inaccessible! Just as in the registration wizard buttons are announced as edit fields and many other GUI elements are not read at all by my screen reader. Also the menus in the menu bar don’t read as they should and multi-page dialogs don’t seem to respond to control+tab. Lucky enough the de-installation process ran smooth without screwing things up ;-)
So the answer to my question “Should I switch to VirtualBox?” is NO! I can’t verify if the performance is indeed better, but I do know that the accessibility of VMware is way better (although not perfect) than VirtualBox and that is the #1 feature I need. I know that VirtualBox can be managed using a command line interface, but overall I consider this less optimal than my current VMware environment. I rather have something slower but accessible than something quicker but inaccessible.
Posted in Accessibility, Linux | 15 Comments »
Posted by Harald van Breederode on February 25, 2009
As you probably have noticed I switched to a new look and feel for this blog, and I like to take the opportunity to say something about the reasons behind this change. Soon after I posted A misleading ORA-16047 people notified me that the alert.log contents and the code examples were overlapping with the sidebar at the right side of the screen. Because everything felt alright on my Braille display I didn’t noticed this myself at post time. Before this incident I noticed myself though, that the sidebar didn’t show up when entering my blog via the RSS feed.
So it was about time for a new look and feel for my blog, which is called a theme. But how does one judge the layout of a new theme being blind? With the patient assistance of a few friends I selected something that still looks nice, whatever that means, without the same problems of the original theme.
However soon after activating the new theme I discovered that it was much harder for me to find my most recent post. In order to understand this you need to know a little about how a blind person is able to surf over the Internet. Blind computer users are using a piece of Assistive technology called a screen reader. As its name implies, a screen reader reads the information from the computer screen out aloud or place it on a Braille display. In my case I am using the JAWS for Windows screen reader. JAWS has a feature called Quick Navigation Keys which allows me to quickly jump to a specific location on the screen, such as a button, an edit field or a heading. On Surfing the Internet with JAWS you can find more information about how JAWS helps me using the web.
The quick navigation key I use most is the one which moves me from one heading to another, which is a very convenient way of moving around on a well structured web page. On the old theme the most recent posting was three headings down from the top of the page and I could go there by three keystrokes. On the new theme however the most recent posting is twelve headings down and performing twelve keystrokes is no longer convenient. This behavior is caused by the fact that on the old theme the postings are located before the static section of the page, whilst on the new theme the postings are located behind the static section of the page. Immediately after activating this new theme my blind visitors started complaining about this.
This brought me into a moral dilemma: Do I choose for my blind visitors or do I choose for my poor sighted visitors? ;-) I have decided to go for the sighted visitors by offering them a nice look and feel, but I tried to help the blind as well by adding a tip on how to quickly jump to the most recent posting. Hopefully the sighted visitors understand that this has to be a two sided road and I expect that they build accessible web pages for the blind in return!
I like to thank Nienke, Eric, Lyon and Richard for their patience and feedback during my journey in finding an acceptable compromise between something that looks nice and is still accessible. Hopefully you like this new theme, but suggestions for further improvements are always welcome.
Posted in Accessibility | 3 Comments »