As an accessibility expert and advocate, I have often wondered,

How hard is it for a person to get access to the latest version of JAWs?

The answer to this question is important, especially when I’m testing the accessibility of UT web offerings. If I happen to have JAWS 10 beta installed, but my student population doesn’t have access to that version yet, I could end up reporting that content is accessible, when in reality, my students might be unable to get to the information.

Recently, I was asked to test and report on the accessibility of iTunes, especially the iTunes U area. In my previous post, I was delighted to report that the iTunes 8 application is delightfully accessible to screenreaders. But, if you look closely, you will notice that I was using JAWS 10 beta. Which brings me back to the question, “How hard is it for my students, who need it, to get access to the latest version of JAWS when they need it?”

My first call was to the UT Services for Students with Disabilities, where I discovered that our assistive technology labs currently have JAWS 9 installed. After talking to the lab manager, I learned that he would easily be able to upgrade to whatever version of JAWS was required. Excellent! Another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

But, let’s be honest, while assistive technology labs are nice, they are not open 24/7. So, a bigger question was, “How hard would it be for my students to get an upgrade to their own version of JAWS?” This question led me to the Texas Department of Rehabilitative Services (DARS) which provides transition services for people with disabilities, including adaptive tools like JAWS. I was relieved to learn that students who had already received a full copy of JAWS from DARS would easily be able to get the upgraded version if it was clear that it was needed for them to be successful at UT.

Woot! I can now say, without reservation, the iTunes 8 application including iTunes U, is accessible!

Upon hearing this statement, my accessibility buddies would likely pepper me with the following questions:

  • What about the content of iTunes? Is the content fully accessible? – Notice that I was not testing the content, I was testing the application. Each piece of content (like audio, video) would need to have an appropriate transcript and/or captioining.
  • What about people who use a screenreader other than JAWS, is iTunes accessible to them too? – The answer to that question is up to each screenreader manufacturer. I have confirmed that iTunes 8 is accessible to both JAWS and Window Eyes. In fact, any screenreader based on MSAA (Microsoft Active Accessibility) is capable of working with iTunes 8. Do note, that the screenreader manufacturer may need to update their application.
  • What about other disabilities? Is the iTunes 8 application accessible for people who are deaf, mobility impaired or have cognitive disabilities? – When testing for accessibility, I follow the US Federal 508 Standard, with an eye for WCAG 2.0’s principles of Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust (POUR). And indeed, the iTunes 8 application meets these requirements. Remember, I’m talking about the application, not the content. For the content to be accessible, each entity that contributes content will have to ensure that they have included the necessary captions and transcripts.

My hat is off to Apple. They have done an outstanding job of proactively working with assistive technology vendors and building an application that is accessible to everyone. Thank you Apple.