Case Study. Why J-Say Search Works.
Since version 1 of J-Say was released many years ago now, the product has always had the ability to mirror any JAWS screen-reading keystroke by voice. This includes working with the internet. So whether you want to bring up a list of Links, move to the next Edit Field or activate Forms Mode, you've always been able to do it. In point of fact we then went onto develop some additional navigational utilities for the web which JAWS does not have at its disposal.
However in the latest J-Say update, version 14, we took this a step further, and added the ability to search various online repositories, such as Google, Youtube, Wikipedia, Amazon and eBay. This allows a user to tell the software what it is he or she would like to search for, and if appropriate, select by department or category. The results are then viewable easily. It saves browsing to the site, finding the first edit field, dictating the search term, reviewing it for accuracy, locating the Combo Box for the category, selecting the value and submitting the search query, not to mention locating where the subsequent results start. I feel exhausted just writing all of that down!
I read a lot of access technology Twitter and email list posts, and I have heard some "rumblings" asking the questions, why are we implementing tools which are quite obviously specialist procedures? Why aren't we encouraging people to use standard web navigational techniques? It's quite simple really. Some people just can't, or do not want to. Of course for those who are able to manage the internet in a more traditional way, we provide full training in that area.
Take Jim as an example. He is a man in his seventies who has recently lost his sight, so it is quite natural that he is learning to adapt to daily life in many ways. His passion is buying goods on eBay. While he did want to have a computer for Email management, what he really wanted to do was to buy products on eBay. He was struggling to use the eBay website.
Jim's daughter, who is not particularly "computer literate", was also having problems, because JAWS was reading text found on the webpage which did not correspond to the visual focus, so it was difficult for her to assist him.
Having just installed J-Say 14 onto the computer, (which I did remotely using JAWS Tandem), they now find the whole process far easier. Not only can Jim achieve what he needs to on eBay, but his daughter Kayley can easily see what is meant to be happening to help him search for what he wants. That crucial assistance which Kayley gives to Jim is just as important as him being able to use the computer.
In summary, the implementation of specialist resources may not be to everyone's liking. But we believe we should be helping as wide a range of people as possible, from the person who wants to use everything JAWS offers in terms of accessing the internet, through to people such as Jim, who NEED a very straightforward easy way of working. It goes without saying, but after installing the update, I first demonstrated to Kayley using the keyboard how the new interface worked, and then took Jim through it by him speaking into the headset/microphone, providing them with high quality support.
J-Say contains many other similar tools and utilities designed for the blind voice recognition user, including the ability to reproduce lengthy text passages, ways of moving files in Windows Explorer, through to special voice commands created for Email contacts. We'll never apologise for helping people irrespective of their technical ability, and we look forward to including many other specialist features in the years to come.