I’m still on an accessibility sub topic in all of this because it’s the accessibility of apps or work arounds that will ultimately make this useable or not. I have no doubt that if a sighted system administrator decided tomorrow to use an iPad for everything, she or he would find it much easier because there’s a larger array of apps to choose from. Hell, VNC would even be possible if the user was absolutely mad enough to go down that route. I have nothing against VNC. But I prefer the integration of RDP in the Windows world. So, tonight, I”m writing about another accessibility related thing. But this time, it’s really posative.
I’ve lost the lag! Screen readers in Windows have become so much better in recent years. They are better at memory management, they have much more efficient virtual buffers, scan mode, browse mode or what ever they call it, they are just generally more reliable, faster and more stable than ever before. But the reality that they need to contend with is they are bolt on. So in some situations, they are absolutely dependent on Windows applications working in a nice way. Take Outlook as an example. This is a very efficient and accessible application for a screen reader user. But there’s no getting around it. In the default layout, when you arrow around messages, that message opens up in the preview window and for just under a second while that message opens, the screen reader sits around picking it’s nose or something. It’s really frustrating. If you throw enough CPU and RAM at it, the process seems to be hugely improved but good luck asking your employer for a quod core processor and 16 to 32GB of ram just because your screen reader is a little more responsive with the extra resources. In SCCM the same thing happens. When you arrow around the tree view, the main view opens for each item. So if you go past the security compliance view or the Office365 management option you could be waiting for five to ten seconds before the next item in the list can be reached. It’s really annoying! But with IOS, voiceover is built in. As some would say, it’s baked in. Either way, it means the same thing. IOS is built with Voiceover in mind so the operating system allows for accessibility use cases that were not considered when the Windows interface was developed many moons ago. So in IOS, you can very quickly move between Email without opening each item. You can jump over to attachments with just a swipe and there’s no lag. You can alt tab to another application and there’s absolutely no lag. You can have split screen on the iPad and jump between notes and your to do window without even considering it. It’s weird. My entire method of taking notes and tracking my to do list in meetings has changed because I’m unlearning a habit that I’ve had for years where I would try to stay in the one window for as long as possible to save vital milliseconds that would be lost by the screen reader lagging slightly behind. Same too when browsing the web and filling in forms. I don’t need to wait for the fraction of a second when the page lodes and I know that I’m in the edit area of a form before I start typing. As soon as I know that Voiceover indicates that the edit field has focus, I know with certainty that I can just start typing and it will work flawlessly.
This seems like I”m putting Windows screen readers and / or Microsoft down. I’m not. Not at all. Windows screen readers and Microsoft Windows and associated applications are infinitly more powerful and versatile than this iPad. But because IOS has been designed with this hardware and app platform in mind, it can gain massive boosts in speed and efficiency.
If you aren’t a screen reader, you would be forgiven for being skeptical of my description of saving milliseconds. But consider that when you see something, you can act on that right away. You don’t give it a second thought. I don’t understand what goes on in our minds of course but I think it’s very much the same for people who can’t see when it comes to audible queues. When I hear a beep, a ding, or the screen reader say something, I don’t think about the next action, I just do it. I spend about 70 hours a week on various electronic devices for work and other things. So interacting with a screen reader is as natural to me as looking out the window is for you.
It’s important that I pepper some posativity into this series of articles because I’ve been quite harsh in many areas of my review over the past few days. I wanted you to be aware that actually, I’m really finding this to be a great replacement for my laptop..
Soon, I’ll write about audio and video editing. I’m effectively doing this now. Is it efficient, or as efficient as on Windows? You should come back soon to find out.
Thanks for sharing these posts on social media. Drop me a comment though. At minimum it looks really bad when these posts are getting lots of visitors and now comments but really, I just want to hear what you think about this series. Is there something you want to read about in particular?