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March/
March
2000

Gary Wunder testified before a House Subcommittee that a Microsoft program cost him a demotion in his job

"Microsoft Project is a program which lets people manage the work tasks they've been assigned. Each project has a due date, and if it is large, as many projects are, it will have subtasks which themselves have intermediate due dates.

When a manager looks at his projects, he is presented with a screen showing those projects which are most critical in bright red, and those of less criticality in lighter shades. It is intuitively obvious as he looks at the screen which projects need his immediate attention and which will wait. The calculations done by this program are simple and straightforward: check today's date against the due date of each project and assign a color for display based on the difference between the two. No matter how obvious the technique, that number is still inaccessible to me.

If someone had thought about the nonvisual user when designing this system, it would have been easy to put out a list in order of due dates. A list with the most critical project first and the least critical last would have given me exactly the same information gained by my sighted colleagues, but a mechanism for making that program produce a simple list was not a part of its design.

The information was displayed with only one audience in mindčthe visual userčalthough there is nothing inherently visual about two dates and the number of days which separate them. In fact, much more effort went into figuring out how to display those projects in a visually attractive color scheme than went into determining their order.

Programs such as the one I have described resulted in my taking a demotion from Project Manager to Senior Programmer. No one had problems with my job performance as long as we used systems which were primarily textual, but five years ago the technology I had available could not help me answer the question of how I would supervise the development, testing, and implementation of new computer systems using the tools which my organization had committed itself to purchase.

 

Catch 22

When we go to a company which is trying to develop a new product as we did when Microsoft started marketing the Windows operating system, we are told that we need to wait and see whether the product will be accepted by the public. We're assured that blind people are valued customers and that our needs will be addressed as soon as the technology demonstrates its viability. Then, after the product is selling like hotcakes and we're losing access to jobs and information, we're told that it is difficult and time-consuming to modify the existing product."

Web access opponents quieted, temporarily
The law on Web access
Does the ADA apply to the Internet?

 

 

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