Recently, I was told by more than one person who had a private meeting with VFO salespeople at CSUN 2017 that the guys trying to sell JAWS are telling those who buy enterprise site licenses that “NVDA is just two guys working in a garage, if they’re hit by a bus, the whole thing disappears.”
NVDA: Now More Than Ever!
I’d like to talk a little bit about the “two-guys-in-a-garage” argument. Chris goes on to demonstrate why it’s completely false in NVDA’s case. But even if it were completely true, it’s still one of the most short-sighted arguments that can be used against FLOSS. “Two-Guys-In-A-Garage” is the argument you make when you have nothing else. You can’t prove that your functionality is better, so you try to argue in favor of scarcity.
We’re at the point where Jaws for Windows, (the so-called best-in-class screen reader), is aping NVDA, (its FLOSS rival), in order to stay relevant. This is especially evident when it comes to the web, where NVDA shines and where Jaws for Windows continues to lag behind. And unfortunately for VFO, (the parent company behind Jaws for Windows), the web their screen reader struggles with is the thing that’s eating the world. Everything is going web. It’s not just pages anymore, it’s applications now too. And Jaws for Windows can’t keep up with NVDA in this arena.
I, like a lot of other people in this community, was devastated by the news that Window Eyes is being discontinued. But NVaccess and the rest of the NVDA community are providing us with the freedom and choice that the big player believes they have the right to take away from us, and this is very heartening. So NVDA, you keep being you and doing what you do best, because when VFO crashes and burns, I want to be first in line to dance on its grave with a drink in both hands.
When WebAIM evaluates a client’s website for accessibility, we often spend more time evaluating and reporting on ARIA use than any other issue. Almost every report we write includes a section cautioning against ARIA abuse and outlining ARIA uses that need to be corrected or, most often, removed. Ironically, this is often followed by a list of issues that can only be addressed with ARIA.
WebAIM – Web Accessibility In Mind
This quote gets to the heart of my own love-hate relationship with Aria. As a screen reader user, I’ve seen abuses that make me want to strangle developers. I think the worst abuse I’ve ever come across, (and I’m sorry I can’t find it again to provide a demonstration of it), was one where role=”alert” was used to deliver advertisements and calls to action on a website. And it definitely did. “Alert! Buy our stuff! Alert! Download our e-book! Alert! sign up for our mailing list! Alert! Here’s this cool article you should read about whatever hot marketing tip! http://something.something/keyword! Alert! Here’s this other cool thing you should read!” Every few seconds. I have no idea whether the site’s developers or owners or marketers were specifically intending to advertise to screen reader users, or whether they were just trying to get past ad blockers, and I don’t care. All I know is, that site enraged me more than any comments section ever could, and I couldn’t close the window and file it under “Places You Never Go on the Internets Ever Again Under Any Circumstances” fast enough. WordPressers, do not ever do this. If you build sites for clients in any capacity, do not ever do this.
Admittedly, what I’ve recounted above is an extreme case. I’ve never come across anything like it again since. I’m recounting it though because what we as web professionals and hobbyists do on the web has a real impact on people, positive or negative. Whether that impact is positive or negative is solely dependent on us. We can make the web a place for everyone to enjoy and learn and be entertained and obtain things, or we can make it a place that people want to stay as far away from as possible. It’s up to us.