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SA To Go on the go

  • By Paul Crichton
  • 28 Jun 07, 01:28 PM

The Serotek Corporation has launched a beta version of a web-based screen reader application that can make any computer accessible for visually impaired users without installing software.

Called System Access To Go – SA To Go for short – this web-based application runs on any computer provided it has an internet connection. This means that if you are visiting a friend and want to show him or her a website you’ve discovered, or want to check your email in an internet café, all you need to do is logon and activate SA To Go, and the screen reader is up and running. SA To Go enables the person, rather than the hardware.

The Serotek press release claims that SA To Go is, “the first product to make web 2.0 accessible to the blind and the visually impaired.” That is a big, bold statement to make.

Web-based applications, like Google’s email service called Gmail, are difficult to use with screen readers. These tools depend on code called ‘Ajax’ to work and update content on a page without re-loading the page. For example, if you look on the Gmail registration page, Ajax is used to check whether an email address is available or taken by another user.

It should be noted, however, that Gmail has a basic HTML version that you can click and use instead of the ajax one.

Mike Calvo, CEO of Serotek, confirmed that SA To Go is compatible with some applications like Gmail. They have developed custom templates to ensure that some of these tools work, “right out of the box.” He said, “If an SA To Go user visits a website like Live or GMail, they will hear a little sound to let them know that we have messed with the page to make it work better, which we think is kinda cool.”

People have expressed concern on mailing lists that it might not work on some computers due to security issues. Mike denies this is an issue as it loads into the temporary internet files and doesn't invade your computer's system.

Here at Access 2.0 we’re really intrigued by how SA To Go works with ajax-based applications. If you are a bit geeky like us, and you have tested it out with anything web 2.0, why not drop us a line and let us know about it. If it makes a lot of these websites accessible, this could be really big news. We’re prepared to hide your identity to preserve your reputation with your non-geeky friends, of course.

As SA To Go is in beta testing, it is free to try out. Ultimately, it is likely to be a service you will have to pay a subscription fee to use. While you are at it, there are some other screen readers available that provide portability that you might like to check out. Thunder RJ is a screen reader available on a USB, for instance. The NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access) screen reader can also be downloaded and run from a USB.

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