Wednesday, March 12, 2008
From time to time, our own T.V. Raman shares his tips on how to use Google from his perspective as a technologist who cannot see -- tips that sighted people, among others, may also find useful.
The advent of RSS and ATOM feeds, and the creation of tools like Google Reader for efficiently consuming content feeds, has vastly increased the amount of information we access every day. From the perspective of someone who cannot see, content feeds are one of the major innovations of the century. They give me direct access to the actual content without first having to dig through a lot of boilerplate visual layout as happens with websites. In addition, all of this content is now available from a single page with a consistent interface.
Until now, I've enjoyed the benefits of Google Reader using a custom client. Today, we're happy to tell you that the "mainstream" Google Reader now works with off-the-shelf screenreaders, as well as Fire Vox, the self-voicing extension to Firefox. This brings the benefits of content feeds and feed readers to the vast majority of visually impaired users.
Google Reader has always had complete keyboard support. With the accessibility enhancements we've added, all user actions now produce the relevant spoken feedback via the user's adaptive technology of choice. This feedback is generated using Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA), an evolving standard for enhancing the accessibility of Web-2.0 applications. WAI-ARIA is supported at present by Firefox -- with future support forthcoming in other browsers. This is one of the primary advantages of building on open standards.
We originally prototyped these features in Google Reader using the AxsJAX framework. After extensive testing of these enhancements, we've now integrated these into the mainstream product. See the related post on the Google Reader Blog for additional technical details.
Looking forward to a better informed future for all!