Willa and I conducted usability testing of Aleph using the questions from RIO. We met with two different people who are blind, and use JAWS as a screen reader. They met us at the Stavros Center for Independent Living in Amherst, and used the version of JAWS that was installed on the conference room computer. Both users (Dan and Basil) were tested separately, and both mentioned that the version of JAWS that Stavros had installed was not the most recent – and was different from the one they used in their own offices.
Neither could successfully navigate from our homepage to the library catalog – the quick search box functionality with the dropdown choices did not work for them. I then navigated to the Amherst College library catalog for the first question. It was extremely difficult for Dan to find where he could search and what he was searching. He was reading the page from the upper left down, and the fact that there was a search box was not obvious. He was listening for the phrase “edit form box” which indicates to him he can type in a search … but that did not appear. Eventually he did hear the word Edit… but the only option that he was aware of was search by keywords. He never heard that there was a way to change the search option to title, author, etc. and there was no auditory flag to cue him that there were other choices. He had a hard time orienting himself on the screen, it was very difficult for him to tell where the cursor was. After he did eventually hear edit and guessed there was a box, he typed in “Disciplines on the Line” as directed. At that point he had no idea where he was. He heard all the same top level words being read (and there are a lot of them – it was a very busy screen for him), and then he heard that there was a table with content. But it was not clear how he would get from there to the call number. This had taken about 15-20 minutes and he wanted to just get back to the library homepage and do the next task. However, he went to the bottom of the page, expecting that there would be a link to the library homepage. As we know, there is a link – but JAWS did not *read* link, so he had no idea. It said “vertical bar”, but not link!
Basil was the second person we tested. We got him to the Five College catalog (again, the shortcuts from the library homepage did not work), and his cursor happened to be at the bottom of the screen. He had no way of knowing that, and began reading from the bottom up. (He said this happens very often, JAWS doesn’t tell him if he’s at the top or bottom until he starts navigating with sound.) He kept reading the text of the examples, but it was completely unclear for him what they were, or how to get to a box where he could search. After 15 minutes he still had not found the search box and we ended it that section of the test.
It was very frustrating to watch them try so hard and not be able to search the catalog. Coincidentally, Willa and I also did usability testing of the Innopac catalog with a blind student using JAWS a few years ago, and had found that it was accessible.