Shareware Beach

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Having Eyes Is Cheaper

Filed under: Ergonomics — Jan @ 18:39

I just replied to an inquiry from a blind prospective EditPad customer. Apparently (a beta version of) his screen reader won’t read EditPad’s “File” menu. I find that a bit weird as EditPad uses an ordinary Delphi TMainMenu. If the bug is indeed with EditPad, then it’s a bug in Delphi.

Anyway, as I was looking into the matter I saw the prices on the Window Eyes web site. Ouch! That’s more than most people spend on their whole computer. Even a 60-day trial costs almost as much as a full license to EditPad Pro! Having eyes is definitely cheaper. You can buy yourself a very nice pair of LCD screens for $895 these days.

So I thought maybe this product is a bit overpriced. So I looked at the prices for JAWS, which one of our long-time blind EditPad users swears by. The standard version costs exactly the same. The braille displays in the same store make my DataHand look absolutely cheap.

Our products have quite a few blind and low-vision customers. I’m always happy to improve our products to make them easier to use for these people, even when it doesn’t make sense from a financial point of view. I prefer to contribute to society this way instead of handing out money to charities.

Hopefully CodeGear won’t procrastinate on adding full MSAA (Microsoft Active Accessibility) support to Delphi as long as Borland has. MSAA is essentially an easy way for developers to describe what’s being shown on the screen, so screen readers and other accessibility software can deal with it without guessing. Instead of the screen reader looking and a handle and figuring out if it looks like a menu bar, EditPad would simply tell that the File menu is active. (Actually, Delphi’s VCL would do it. I would just fill out a few more properties.)


  1. Accessibility improvements were introduced in D2007:

    You shouldn’t need anything for TMainMenu. But the action controls needed formal accessibility support, and D2007 has it. I suspect the bug is in the beta screen reader.

    Comment by Craig Stuntz — Tuesday, 20 November 2007 @ 21:21

  2. Hi Jan

    Do you know about this guy? He’s a blind Delphi developer who might be able to give you some more info?

    Comment by IanH — Wednesday, 21 November 2007 @ 2:36

  3. Marco Zehe is the long-time EditPad user I was talking about. I hadn’t seen his blog before though.

    As far as MSAA in D2007 goes, that’s for the TActionMenu component, which I don’t use. I want MSAA support at the TControl level, so it can be easily used in custom controls. I’ve been told that controls like TStringGrid are very difficult to use by blind people because the grid doesn’t explain itself through MSAA.

    Comment by Jan Goyvaerts — Wednesday, 21 November 2007 @ 7:05

  4. Hi Jan,

    I never mentioned this kind of problem to you in EditPad Pro because JAWS does not rely on screen-drawings for menus any more (hasn’t been doing for 3 versions), but instead uses MSAA. The Delphi TMainMenu component is a wrapper to the standard Windows menu bar, which means it automatically gets full MSAA support. So even the images shown on the EditPad Pro menu bar don’t give JAWS any headaches.

    The only menu that is really a problem for JAWS right now is the one in RegexBuddy 3, as we already discussed over e-mail a couple of months ago. That’s because DevEx’s menubar components don’t support MSAA, are not wrappers for the standard Windows menubar, and are owner-drawn.

    Comment by Marco zehe — Friday, 30 November 2007 @ 4:29

  5. Yes, I was very disappointed to find out, after I’d already paid for the upgrade, that ExpressBars 6 still doesn’t have MSAA support. At one point I was told (or led to believe) by DevExpress that ExpressBars 6 would have MSAA support, and used ExpressBars (5 during development, 6 upon release) in RegexBuddy 3 in that belief. I guess all that ribbon stuff had to take priority.

    Comment by Jan — Friday, 30 November 2007 @ 15:51

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