Screen reader technology has become a mainstay for the blind community, allowing individuals with visual impairments to read and access digital information in a way they never could before. And since Actuate’s own automated Document Accessibility technology provides a means for high volumes of documents to be made completely compatible with screen readers, we like to stay up to date on all the latest innovations JAWS has to offer..
I was asked by Freedom to participate in their Annual Accessibility Showcase, held on October 23rd in Washington, DC. Freedom Scientific is the company behind JAWS screen reader technology, and one of the leading innovators in the field.
The Accessibility Showcase covered document accessibility in Word and PDF, and looked at training solutions for employees with disabilities, and outlined some of the exciting new offerings in Freedom Scientific’s newest release, JAWS 16.
The turnout was great and the people who attended were the who’s who of accessibility, including experts from the federal government, Section 508 officials and coordinators, usability and compliance testers, business unit managers, document creators, and government contractors. Many of them are visually impaired themselves. And they all came because JAWS is one of the most popular screen reader technologies available, and is largely the standard for people who test applications, websites and documents for accessibility.
And now, the new release of JAWS 16 will add even more functionality. Some of the highlights Freedom Scientific announced include:
- JAWS Command Search, a built-in search engine for keystrokes. This new feature lets users enter a full or partial description of a command and find out the associated keystrokes involved.
- Enhanced Convenient Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for PDF Documents, which better allows JAWS technology to read image PDF documents.
- The JAWS Standard License will now be the JAWS Home Edition. It works with either the Home or Professional versions of Windows and is intended for non-commercial use, on a personal laptop or desktop computer.
- Support for MathML, with descriptions of math equations and formulas in the same style used by teachers in a classroom.
These features will only make JAWS easier to use. But while the JAWS 16 presentation was one of the highlights of Freedom Scientific’s event, it wasn’t the only one.
One of the presentations later in the day by Terri Youngblood from Accessible Systems was also well received. It was entitled “How to Create an Accessible Word Document,” and walked the audience through creating an accessible Word document using Word’s built in functionality – which is critically important for document authors to understand. This is the needed approach for documents created as lower volume, one-offs. Her presentation was actually scheduled just before my own and served as a perfect segway, since my segment focused on the solutions for high-volume PDFs.
My session was called “Enterprise Generated PDF Accessibility and Usability,” and focused on PDF tagging and strategies and solutions for addressing accessibility for high-volume PDFs generated at the enterprise level. Examples of these are some of the most widely distributed and critically important documents such as personalized tax, health and benefits statements and notices.
I did get some great feedback from my presentation, especially from federal government representatives – many of whom don’t know an automated solution exists that can automatically remediate high-volume PDFs into Section 508 (and WCAG 2.0 Level AA) conformant accessible PDFs. . With that in mind, I’ll go into more detail on accessible PDFs for government in my next blog post.
I was really delighted to be a part of this event. Actuate has a great relationship with Freedom Scientific and is looking forward to continuing that relationship. In fact, Matt Ater, the company’s Vice President of Services, also spoke at Actuate’s federal government accessibility event, Automation and the Changing Landscape of Section 508 on December 4, 2014.
For more information on my presentation at Freedom Scientific’s Annual Accessibility Showcase, contact me on LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org.