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Bringing Web Accessibility Closer to Home

September 14, 2007

Katsutoshi Tsuji
Accessibility Engineer

The presentation including the screen reader demonstrations was very informative, but we are uncertain how we can share this within our organization.

This is one of the most frequent comments that we have received at the end of the seminars delivered by our accessibility team in the past. Without a doubt, I believe that it is difficult for the audience to acquire a good feel of software applications such as screen readers and talking web browsers, which convert text contents into voice or Braille, solely by listening to the explanation that such software applications exist, and that visually impaired people such as I use them to access websites.

Therefore, we have released a new service with the aim of making everyone who works with websites more familiar with Web accessibility and to extend their understanding of the issue. This article introduces this new service, thereby allowing the reader to better understand accessibility.

Screen Reader Testing Service

Web accessibility, which can enable many people who visit websites to efficiently access desired information, has become better known to many content providers in recent years, and more websites including those of private companies and local municipalities have begun to embrace Web accessibility.

On the other hand, a report entitled “Overview of the Survey Results on Web Accessibility of Websites Belonging to Local Municipal Bodies” published by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication on September 7 indicates that despite an improved recognition of Web accessibility as compared to the past, there are many organizations that are yet to attempt the incorporation of Web accessibility into their websites.

Therefore, we have released a new service termed “Screen Reader Testing” through which more people will become aware of how visually impaired users utilize screen reader software to access websites and obtain the desired information, thereby serving as a trigger for our customers to enhance the accessibility of their websites.

In this service, we provide voice recordings from the screen reader software when a visitor completes a particular task while browsing a customer's website using the screen reader, together with an annotated text of the operations performed by the user while completing the task.

By using this service, it becomes possible for customers to clearly grasp how their websites are read by a visitor using the screen reader software. In addition, by sharing the voice recording within the customer's organization, accessibility issues can be shared within the entire organization and not limited to only those staff with responsibilities related to the website, thereby assisting in the improvement of the website.

Accessibility Podcast

Accessibility Podcast is another service whose launch is planned toward the end of September. (which by this point has already been released) The podcast will be released about twice a month and will include the latest news related to accessibility mainly in the context of websites as well as information related to the effective use of the screen reader that I personally use on a daily basis. The accessibility podcast will be available from the Accessibility Blog.

What led me to plan a broadcast of this type of information was the desire to bring accessibility closer to home and for it to be considered as something that is applied during content creation and everyday access to websites, rather than being something “special.” The podcast will be in the form of free conversations between Mr. Makoto Ueki of Infoaxia and me. We aim for the podcast to be something that can be listened to during small time fragments such as commuting to work or school and provide topics that could be of help to start conversations. I hope that you will look forward to what will most likely be Japan's first podcast on Web accessibility, “Tsuji-chan and Ue-chan's Accessibility Podcast.”

Bringing accessibility closer to home

It was almost a year ago around the same time on September 15 that I first contributed to this column. At the time, I was provided the opportunity to write in the “ACC04 Seminar Participation Report” that Web accessibility should not be something that is supplemented as a result of special considerations; rather, it should be enhanced through the efforts of everyone involved with the Web.

I believe that the accessibility-related service that we have begun to provide is the first step toward the improvement of website accessibility. We would like Web accessibility to be something that is “ordinary” as an integral part of the normal website creation process, rather than being considered as something that is prescribed. We wish to continue our efforts through the provision of our Web-accessibility-related services in order for our challenges to be recognized and applied practically.