One of my fellow Yahoos, Victor Tsaran, was on a local morning news show this week, talking about his work. Victor is a program manager on the Accessibility team here at Yahoo!.
The Accessibility team’s charter is to work with product teams, including Messenger, to make our technologies as usable as possible for disabled users.
Seeing Victor on TV reminded me of the interview I did with him in early 2007, not long after the blog started. In the video below, Victor shows me how a blind person can use Yahoo! Messenger. Close your own eyes, pretend your mouse is useless, and then think about how you would use Yahoo! Messenger.
With the help of screen reader software, a visually impaired user can enjoy the Internet and products like Yahoo! Messenger. This kind of software responds to a user’s key commands. It scans the page or application and reads the content aloud. In this way, visually impaired users can “hear” where they are on the screen or web page.
Because it reads the words aloud, a screen reader may sound wordy to people unaccustomed to it. But a visually impaired user who is adept at using the reader can set the audio playback at a lightening pace. When Victor demonstrated how he uses Yahoo! Messenger with a screen reader, it sounded to me like supersonic gibberish. But as you’ll see in the video below, Victor slowed it down for my (and perhaps yours) less able ears.
Needless to say, it gave me a unique perspective on what it’s like for a visually impaired user to use Yahoo! Messenger. For more about Victor – even his life outside of Yahoo! – check out this article and video from the Yahoo! Corporate Blog.