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Re: [emacspeak The Complete Audio Desktop] Web Accessibility AndUsability: Comin...



On Sat, Dec 22, 2007 at 01:38:48PM +0100, David Pic=F3n =C1lvarez wrote=
:
>> well, the biggest hole in this space is that the blind user
>> community has gotten so used to broken tools that they now swear
>> by them and define accessibility by whether or not things work
>> with those tools. This is a dead-end that  I predicted 10 years
>> ago, but I'm still sorry to see that my predictions have proven
>> correct. For what I mean, see some of the comments / responses
>> that were raised by a related article I wrote on one of my other
>> blogs and forwarded to the wai-ig list.

I agree with Raman's assessment. Furthermore, I would argue that the so=
rry
state of HTML on the Web, both in its syntactic mal-formedness and its =
failure
to conform to the semantics defined in the HTML 4.01 specification, pla=
ce
significant barriers in the way of developers who wish to create better=
 tools
to present the Web via speech or braille interfaces.

However, Raman's point remains: the user community is by and large so
accustomed to the limitations of screen readers as to be unaware of the=
 need
for, let alone the existence of, superior alternatives, especially as m=
eans of
accessing the Web.
>
> The truth is that Emacspeak has some issues that are very hard for bl=
ind=20
> users to deal with. One important problem is internationalization. Th=
e=20
> whole world doesn't speak English. Emacs was written at a time when=20=

> internationalization wasn't a consideration, and modifying it so that=
 it=20
> affords it would be a herculean task, but one that is nonetheless nec=
essary=20
> if it is to be hoped that it will be adopted by non-english-speaking =
users.=20

Raman's point wasn't related only to Emacspeak, and I think it is impor=
tant to
separate his general claim about the limitations of screen readers and =
the
value of alternatives from any criticisms you might have of Emacspeak o=
r
Emacs.

For example, IBM's Home Page Reader was only modestly successful in gai=
ning a
user base, despite offering a customized speech interface to the Web, a=
nd
having been built on the commercially dominant Web browser and operatin=
g
system. It wasn't taken up by the user or developer communities as an e=
xample
of what could be achieved.  Nor was Emacspeak and its implementation of=
 aural
CSS years earlier.

Fire Vox is another move in the right direction. It remains to be seen =
how
much of a user community it attracts; but my point is that it is one of=
 only a
handful of examples of what can be done. In discussions of accessibilit=
y, the
benchmark still remains the screen reader - and specifically the MS-Win=
dows
screen reader, with all its limitations, and the alternatives are rarel=
y
mentioned.

The point about internationalization may be true, but Raman's remarks a=
pply
very well even if the community under consideration is restricted to th=
ose
proficient in English. At least Emacs has full Unicode support, which i=
s more
than can be said for some other software.
> In addition, I have tried, I really have, and I'm a fairly technicall=
y=20
> competent user. I can write code. Yet I find Emacs such a difficult=20=

> environment to master. The emacs tutorial doesn't have enough informa=
tion=20
> and the emacs manual has far too much. Learning to use emacs=20
> competently--and if one wants to use emacspeak efficiently one must b=
e able=20
> to use emacs competently--takes a very long time. Issues with having =
to use=20
> (or being recommended to use) versions from repositories, that someti=
mes=20
> break, don't make the experience any better.

There really must be something wrong in your approach to learning Emacs=
, or
else some basic misunderstandings involved. I read the Emacs tutorial, =
then
started using Emacs straight away. I then read through large parts of t=
he
manual, which helped a lot, and after that it was mostly a matter of
consulting the Emacs help system, or sections of the manual, as I neede=
d them.
I found Emacs one of the easiest environments to learn.

It would be interesting to know what lies at the core of the problems
experienced by those who have trouble with Emacs, and why for many of u=
s there
are no such difficulties. I don't think it's a straightforward matter o=
f those
who have difficulty being less intelligent than those of us who find it=
 fairly
easy to assimilate the necessary knowledge. After all, Emacs involves v=
ery
little learning compared with learning to program, or learning to prove=

theorems in mathematics, or learning to play a musical instrument well,=
 or
learning another natural language, or acquiring many other skills and
abilities.

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