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Read between the lines
answers on 10 questions to Microsoft


i'm interested to see how others read between the screen reader output on the following responce from microsoft. my reflections will be preceeded by "dd".

1. how many project managers at microsoft are dragging their foot on access? it is being said that this is the case because they don't want their efforts diverted into areas for which they have no concern.

[JW] Real questions would be appreciated.
dd this one speaks volunms without comment.

2. will microsoft permit access to win 98 and future code for adaptive software development at a very early stage?

[JW] All major accessibility utility vendors were invited to participate in
the Win98 beta program.
dd the joint letter from developers last fall says different. whose version do you believe?

3. will microsoft swear on a stack of windows nt manuals that they will not try doing their own speech and push the little guys out of the market. recent articles quoting microsoft folk saying ms wants speech in and speech out as a part of operating systems have appeared.

[JW] Our plan is to have Text-to-speech capability built into U.S. English
Windows NT 5. This will a) provide a quality feature for free, saving visually impaired people hundreds of dollars each, and b) encourage application makers to use speech in a greater variety of products. There will always be a market for specialized text-to-speech, but there is no reason that people should have to carry around expensive external devices to
get basic text-to-speech functionality. It should be included in every box.
We're discussed this plan with blind-user advocates, and none have objected.
dd so it is true, ms intends to squash the small guy in the interest of saving we poor blinks from the nasty people who made ms products speak in the first place. am i wrong they promised not to do this? who are the un named blind advocates who are so agreeable with ms?

4. will microsoft persist in trying to break java universality? universal java code can run under windows just fine, and on any other system if it is truly universal.

[JW] I think you're misinformed. Internet Explorer runs Java better than Netscape runs Java. This is wasting both of our time. And I don't see how
this has anything to do with accessibility.
dd the developers of java have promised to build access in from the ground up. as for the attempt to put a sugar gloss on ms's attempts to break java, i suppose that sun is just suing ms for doing just that for the fun of it. anyone reading the computer press knows that ms does just what the question asks.

5. don't you think java is one logical out for ms from the access qwagmire it fell into for lack of foresight?

[JW] Java is a cool programming language, one that should and will be enhanced to make programs easily accessible, just like the other major programming languages. It has the same accessibility problems that other major programming languages have (that is, programmers can use inaccessible
methods if they want to, and our job is to make accessible development very
easy and compelling). There is nothing inherently magical about it with regard to accessibility.
dd see above. ibm and sun want to put access in from the beginning. does this say that because ms can break java as a language it will?

6. will the most broadly used databases and spreadsheets continue to be speech hostile? if so, for how many years?

[JW] We're working on making Excel and Access more accessible in the next versions. But you already know that, right?
dd yes we all know what ms has said. how many years please. how many versions, office 2025?

7. in staff and budget, how do access efforts compare with the explorer development team, not to mention any of the office folk?

[JW] The budget allocated to making the products accessible is less than the budget allocated to making the products. Did you expect otherwise? dd no, just to confirm in real business measurements, the effort for access is far less then that for a web browser to give away free. don't give us the figures, what percent of the browser budget is the access one?

8. is it true that office xx products could not use the microsoft logo if access were a part of the definition? does ms not make it mandatory for other companies for this reason?

[JW] Some accessibility guidelines in the Windows Logo program are recommendations at this time; others are requirements. We plan to make the
recommendations into requirements over time. All applications, including Office, require time to fix their accessibility problems. There isn't any magical way around that.
dd so you confirm, ms can't pass access as a part of the ms logo program and thus has little incentive to put it in for others. magic no, money and staff, yes, just the same as the browser program is a good start.
9. isn't the ms access project best compared to gradually adding user convenience features to office products and not a core project with the same urgency as explorer development?

[JW] No. We're treating accessibility across the company as a fundamental
product requirement, like localizability. BillG said that in his recent speech. But I don't think you want to believe that. So why are we wasting
time arguing about this?

10. why isn't a microsoft mailing list the perfect venue where disability advocacy issues can be discussed? why limit input from your customers to a once a year or so summit when broad input could be a day to day source of user input, the true experts in this area?

[JW] The email address (it's not a public mailing list) is for QUESTIONS about the accessibility of Microsoft products. For example, "how do I do X with product Y?" or "what is Microsoft's plan with regard to including Speech technology in Windows?"



Now I've spent about two hours responding to your disbelief of messages we have already delivered. I'd rather be working on making Win98 and NT5 accessible.

dd one wonders why it took you 2 hours? aside from the standard slugish responsiveness from ms products, the only other idea coming to mind is that you had a lockup and a call to the support team suggessted the all too often, "just reinstall windows" advice. that makes the 2 hour time frame just about right. others can be the judge of the tenor of the overall ramifications of the last crack. i have suggested elsewhere that ms managers take a six month test drive with screen readers only, are you up for it? if so, access will occupy more then 2 hours of your day, it will be an all day thing for those six months.

Jeff Witt
Microsoft Corporation

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