At Microsoft, there seems to be a company-wide, worldwide problem with not making their products accessible even though they have their http://www.microsoft.com/enable website, they seem to think that either you have to accept their woefully inadequate “Narrator” and “Magnifier” tools in Windows or you have to rely on another company to do a free tool for you or spend up to thousands of dollars in assistive technology. That holds especially true for the latest score of products coming from the great giant and master of accessibility and commitment in action. Maybe I don’t want to rely on NVDA, the free System Access to Go and I don’t want to keep paying for JAWS SMA maintenance, but want something that rivals a VoiceOver like solution in my favorite OS, Windows and its latest incarnation (Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Phone 8). Maybe I want to have the choice to flip the switch to shut JFW up and go into a baked in solution to either read or magnify and navigate the screen. As you’ll notice if you go to this link http://www.microsoft.com/enable/microsoft/default.aspx, Microsoft lists Windows 7 and Office 2010, but makes no statements about its upcoming offerings.
Here are 10 things that aught to be easy to implement with that unified code base Microsoft’s been so hyper to brag up this week in Toronto at WPC which I’m watching through live streaming. They are as follows; 1) JAWS quality voices at the in-the-box price, 2) Live tiles that are read at the instant of change, 3) Authentication through a solution involving speech recognition, 4) Most of the same keystrokes and menu layouts we know and love from earlier versions of the OS, 5) A built-in development system that the most coding illiterate can develop with, 6) Integration and isolation of Office 15 public beta code for testers at the time of Windows 8 release, 7) Desktop view when you turn your computer on, not the start screen, 8) Metro v. full featured app view preferences set in control panel (with classic view in control panel & win explorer, 9) System-wide Auto-Save (like MacOS X Lion) and 10) Removal of the notification bar from IE to make downloads or required actions come to the user directly instead of assistive technology having to inform us that the toolbar is there and what it’s wanting us to know or do. Now, here are things that should be implemented before the next version after Windows 8 and the current slate of products comes out.
1. An abandonment of UIA and the adoption of something I’d like to call a Totally Accessible & Natural User Experience (where you automatically have that switch between AT products and baked in solutions, coexisting speech recognition, gesture recognition and so on)
2. People/Devices Near Me (detect devices and the information about the people who use/own them and give the user the capability to share documents, play games, surf the web or just interact with them)
3. A testing program where users (like in the disability community) could test the software either on their system or via a bare metal install for testing purposes
4. Windows & other cloud services (including having access to a Microsoft/parter hosted Windows Server for testing websites, etc.) baked into the OS
5. Unquestioned accessibility to all products including XBOX 360, Office, Windows Live, Windows Server, Visual Studio, SQL Server, System Center and Windows Phone software and apps