Developing for others

As if by magic, Jeffery Zeldman yesterday published an article about print style sheets, which just happened to be what I was tangentally ranting about in the car on the way to work the other morning. Most of us support printers about as badly as we support screen readers, and I don’t think the two devices are that far removed – both are mostly “out of sight, out of mind”.

What I was more specifically complaining about was screen readers and their general lack of support from the web community.

I’m under the firm belief that screen reader support is rubbish for two reasons:

  • None of us use them (”us” being the general web dev community).
  • Screen readers are expensive, clunky and support the specs even less than some of our most hated normal browsers (and then have to work with browsers that don’t support the specs well either).

Because of the first reason – we’re not pushing screen readers to be developed well. Why isn’t there a good, free, open source screen reader? “We” don’t need one.

I’d really like to encourage people to start trying out some of the screen readers (most will run in a trial/demo mode for a period of time). If a few more of us incorporated screen readers into our testing (if you’re not already, why the hell not?) and then perhaps started badgering those developing these products to improve them, we could have some decent products for everyone.

Remember the spread firefox campaigns and “web standards” pushes that worked so well? We desperately need one of these for screen readers, and to be frank, it’s going to take people giving a damn about others to happen because this is an area outside most of our personal uses. We also need developers who are willing to put some time into working on new open source products that can be used by, and improved by, everyone.

How can we do this? Do you think it isn’t worth it? Feedback people.