Monday, January 06, 2014

A Warm Up To My Top Ten A.T. Stories of 2013

My list is done. my so called opinions are actually edited this year, but as we all well know, that doesn’t mean that they will make any sense what so ever. However, before we start reading these stories of 2013, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on matters that influenced my choices.
I write a few things on SAMNet, System Access Mobile Network, to our Community Users about what tech is and does in order for them to get an idea of what our Technical and Customer Support look at when considering a technical request or suggested bug report. The below is one such post that I made recently that sums up just how crazy tech is now then say five years ago.
“An Internet Explorer By Any Other name…
Several people have been giving us some great feeback on issues with internet Explorer and we really do thank all of you for letting us know what you are experiencing with the browser. As a bit of an idea what we look at within Support, here is just a list of possible versions that we have to consider when looking at bugs and testing. I’m posting this in hopes that everyone can be a bit more specific about posting bugs, moreover, its also to let you know that saying IE causes more confusion for some now in the good old modern age of Windows.
Internet Explorer on Windows 7 can be loaded as a 32 bit version and a 64 bit version. And you can load the 32 bit version on a computer running Windows 7 in 64 bit flavors of the operating system. The major changes here are the way that IE handles security and processes in the browser. Due to the larger popularity, and price, of Windows 32 bit based systems… this version is still the most common version encountered and it runs by default on Windows 7 64 bit versions. Mostly, but not exclusively, the 64 bit versions of Internet Explorer are used within large Enterprise based companies and are not recommended for daily use outside these environments. You will find that more breaks with 64 bit IE than works because of the 32 bit default dilemma, and that sites are generally not optimized for the 64 bit versions. You can, and probably will, see strange screen reader behaviors if you choose to use this browser more often.
Next, the version of IE 11 on Windows 8, and now 8.1, is enhanced with Windows Defender and other background processes. Complicating matters is the addition of the Windows modern, or Start Screen, version of internet Explorer. Technically, Windows 8 machines have two browsers. There is the version of IE that you can run from the standard Desktop, then there is the version you can get to if you run it from the options listed on the Windows Start Screen [i.e. by hitting the Windows key and choosing Internet from that section]. Here again we have 32 bit and 64 bit versions of IE. And they both pose interesting, but similar problems, to their Windows 7 cousins. Generally, as in most cases for many of our users, running the Desktop version of Internet Explorer 11 in 32 bit is the way to go and it should provide the path of least resistance for most internet surfing.
Then there is the SAMNet Browser, while based on Internet Explorer, the SA Browser is not exactly the same experience as running native IE. I’m not going to go too far into this, however, it does help us a great deal to hear if you are reporting something within the actual internet Explorer on your Windows machine or if you are finding something that is happening exclusively within SAMNet. They both require their own testing routines and knowing which one is acting strange lets us find an issue, or try to reproduce, it more easily.
Next, remember that not all browsers are created equally. You can’t assume that the internet is just text on a screen anymore. A website will act one way on Firefox, one way on Chrome and something altogether different on Internet Explorer. Web developers do not implement code the same way on various websites and they might even tailor-make a look and feel if they see you come to them with say firefox as the browser. The way this code is written can throw screen readers off if it is too customized. And its why you see some Assistive Technology flourish on some parts of the web more than others. You can aim at using web standards, yet if Web Developers don’t use those standards, it can be an unfun day for all. Therefore, it should never come as a surprise that Screen Reader X acts better or worse than Screen Reader y on a site. The focus for each technology could be aimed at a specific style of audience and those users, for what is perceived as the best way to interact with a website, will see good and bad results if the Web Developer has followed the various Web Standards to the letter. In other words, it’s a crapshoot. If there is a new trend in doing say a menu box, and there is no standard for this new look at everyone wants to use, then its entirely possible that this unfamiliar code will react in altogether unique kinds of ways along all screen reader lines. There isn’t always a way to avoid this or futureproof for it as these things change so often and so fast that what may be a trend today, flyover menus, becomes old hat and forgotten in the next revision of the website in question. For example, oh I don’t know, say Facebook.
There used to be a time where you could say a website, is a website, is a website. But with the way that websites utilize 3rd party ads that can take up the whole screen until you do a mouse click on them, the way that placing focus on an element can make you almost deaf because the audio is blaring something at you because you placed your focus there for a moment or just the fact that mark at facebook thinks that if the site looks the same for more than six weeks its not hip anymore… well you get the picture. It’s a more interesting world we live in now with Access Technologies and just when you think you have a handle on it, like use the mobile version of Facebook instead, they go and stick ads there making the experience just as confusing as the main site.
Oh, and before I forget to mention, it is very, VERY! Important to let us know if you are using things like Classic Shell on Windows 8, Windows via Boot Camp for Mac or any other way of using Windows on mac hardware. While it might kind of feel or look like your standard copy of Windows, it isn’t. there are specific things that have to be tested for when using those machine configurations and they can be some of the more strange behaviors you will ever see when using Windows with any technology. At the end of the day, no matter what, Windows was designed to run on Windows hardware first and running it in other ways, even something like Classic Shell, is considered a modification and it can cause issues that would not show up if running Windows by the default look and feel on native hardware. Its not only its own animal, it can be its own Zoo entirely!”
As clear as mud no? Well I’ll be mentioning more things like that on my list and on the upcoming “This Year In A.T.” program that will air this Wednesday on SeroSpectives. you can hear that via iBlink Radio or later from the SeroTalk website…
And if you want to read more posts like this, and hang out with some of the best darn Community members on the internet, run and get the 14 day trial of SAMNet from the Serotek website.
Be sure to say “hi” to me on the boards or voice chat rooms!

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