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Thoughts on Flexible Web!

In Episode 70 of its monthly FSCast, Freedom Scientific announced the upcoming JAWS 14 feature "Flexible Web". I happen to think this is a real breakthrough in making the web user experience more intuitive for people. Please note that all the information I am about to discuss is already in the public domain through FSCast.

Flexible Web will allow a JAWS user to:

  • Hide content on a web page which may interrupt the reading experience. Many sites now contain Google Ad Frames or Links to social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing people to share a page with these sites. If placed in the middle of an article or news story for example, these Links and Frames can interrupt the flow of something interesting being read.
  • Start reading at, (or set focus to), a designated point on a web page. Two basic examples would be as follows. When you carry out a Google search, instruct JAWS to start reading where the search results appear, bypassing the other content at the head of the page. Alternatively, when activating a Link to read more about a book on Audible.com, set JAWS to go straight to the summary so as to decide whether you would like to purchase it. Focus can also be set to other elements, such as Edit Fields, ARIA regions and Links.

These two features are governed by an intuitive Wizard which steps you through the process with helpful information along the way. You can create a "temporary customisation" initially, and if you decide you want to apply it you can create a permanent rule. The rules can contain a combination of "behaviours", such as to ignore content and start reading at a designated location. Options in the Wizard allow you to rename, edit and delete rules. Rules can be applied to all sites or to an individual one.

I really would advise you to listen to the FSCast on this subject. Jonathan Mosen does a first-class job of demonstrating all the options within Flexible Web.

One thing I learned from the podcast was that if you choose to hide content using Flexible Web, this also applies to MAGic if you have it running alongside JAWS. So as people are working their way through web pages, the visual focus tracks alongside JAWS. That is very cool indeed.

Not only do I think this will improve the browsing experience for people tremendously, but it will also add useful functionality for those using browser-based applications in the workplace. Together with Placemarkers and Custom Labels, Flexible Web will undoubtedly ensure people have the tools to become more efficient within the course of their work duties. JAWS does stand for "Job Access With Speech" after all!

When JAWS is officially released containing Flexible Web, there will be a number of ways you can get help to use it.

You can use the Context Sensitive Help already built into the Flexible Web wizard to give you useful guidance on how to use it.

You can take advantage of a webinar to be hosted by the Freedom Scientific Training department on 24 October.

Astec, (the company I work for), will remotely train anyone anywhere in the world on any aspect of using JAWS for 40 pounds per hour. This training is reinforced by the provision of documentation to support it. Note that this does not mean we will attend site but it is remote training using JAWS Tandem or similar software. For more information, please write to brian.hartgen@astec-at.co.uk

In summary, the introduction of Flexible Web just demonstrates why JAWS is a fantastic screen-reader. Using Flexible Web, Placemarkers and Custom Labels, Freedom Scientific really do give blind people excellent control of web pages, allowing people to find and read what they want very quickly. I wish them the very best of luck with this new feature.

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