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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 May 2008 Issue  Volume 9  Number 3

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

MUD Wrestling

I read your article "Exploring Methods of Accessing Virtual Worlds" in the March issue of AccessWorld. A nice article, an inspiring read.

[It included an] erratic description of Terraformers; it is not a MUD (multiuser dungeon) game. MUDs are text-based, multiuser domains/dungeons. Terraformers is a real-time 3D [three-dimensional] single-user adventure game--a very different thing, indeed. Furthermore, a screen reader cannot get text from DirectX or OpenGL, as far as I know, which is used for rendering graphic displays in Terraformers. Hence, we have used voice recordings for in-game textual feedback (and some built-in speech synthesis for dynamic texts, too).

Please try the game and correct the description of Terraformers. You can download a fully playable demo at www.pininteractive.com.

Thomas Westin

CEO, Pin Interactive AB

The authors respond:

We thank Mr. Westin for pointing out a flaw in our article. The use of a screen reader like JAWS 9.0 does not yield greater accessibility to Terraformers, but, in fact, may interfere with Terraformers' keyboard operation. In addition, as Mr. Weston correctly points out, the Terraformers game may not--strictly speaking--be deemed to be a MUD because it is a single-user game and graphic in nature. However, the recorded verbal cues that it generates are closely reminiscent of those yielded by some legacy text adventure games, like the Zork series or MUDs. It is also worth pointing out that the accessibility method pursued in Terraformers yields a rich and immersive sonic tapestry that is optimized for a gaming environment, where the attainment of a goal is subservient to the values of entertainment and excitement, and a certain degree of user confusion and bewilderment is rightfully pursued intentionally. Conversely, the goal of our accessibility project for virtual worlds is to achieve a more expeditious form of accessibility, where user entertainment is subservient to the immediately successful attainment of transactions, in general-purpose environments that have the potential to be utilized for conducting business and education.

Bill Carter and Guido D. Corona

Designing for Web 2.0

[Regarding "Surfing into the Future: An Introduction to Web 2.0"]

[Web 2.0 is] one of my pet peeves as a web developer who strives for accessibility. The Web 2.0 model presented by SitePoint.com (and elsewhere) is a good one for developers to keep in mind. It envisions the web as three layers: content, presentation, and behavior. We should have no problems if people can design in such a way that they keep those layers separate, which isn't so hard to do.

Content is key and can be styled simply in ways that preserve accessibility. Then you can add "rich media" using various methods of expanding the experience. There really is no advantage to doing otherwise--only the lack of knowledge and/or laziness. In another 20 years, America will be overrun with aging baby boomers like me, and age-related vision loss will be common among the very people who have the most money to spend in the marketplace of the World Wide Web. So web developers who don't get the point now will pay a price with their failed businesses later.

Progressive enhancement is the only structural model that makes sense for the web, although I'm sure many people will continue to violate the web standards simply because they can. Ironically, it's because they lack the vision to look far enough into the future.

Jeff Seager

Communications Specialist

West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services

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