There is a lot of discussion out there regarding which screen reader and operating system combination is best. Each camp has their arguments, and honestly I can’t disagree, to adimently, with any of them.
The thing is, in my experience, those who are fluent with as many tools as possible are the most successful in employment. What matters more, your convictions for the tool of choice, or having a job that pays the bills, and allows you to live the quality of life you desire? I thought so! So, it is time to become multi-tech-savvy.
The Employment Environment
I am exposed to a variety of potential employment environments as an AT specialist, with an emphasis in communicating with employers and job site accommodation,. Most employers take advantage of networking to distribute information to employees. More recently a trend toward web-based applications has been observed. The web-based applications tend to be written for one web browser or another. Often the companies web app can only be displayed in Internet Explorer, or in Mozilla Firefox, and the screen must be set to a specific resolution to display the contents.
Businesses have to make decisions regarding what hardware and software to purchase, deploy and maintain. The decision is often based on matching the technology to the environment and nature of the business. In retail business owners have multiple choices. They can purchase a Windows, or Mac based Point of Sale system, or a mobile point of sale system that utilizes either IPad, Windows tablet or Android tablet hardware. If one chooses to learn only how to use an IPad, with VoiceOver or Zoom, they may be limiting employment opportunities.
It seems unthinkable that a business could operate, in today’s market, without an internet connection. Web browsers are designed to be the gateway to the Internet. Business owners again have many choices. The decision regarding which is best for the companies type of work, need for security are likely to outweigh their desire to accommodate an individual users preference.
Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox are reviewed as having superior security and privacy features. This may be one of the reasons that they are common among business information infrastructure. A web search reveals that from year to year, and version of browser to version of browser, one or the other will boast greater security or faster speeds than the other.
Access Technology Decisions
In recent experience, and simply stated, NVDA works better in Firefox than it does in Internet Explorer 11 and later. JAWS works better in Internet Explorer 11 and later than it does in Firefox. Some web pages display better in Firefox than they do in Internet Explorer and vice-versa. Toss Apple products into the mix, and you will likely see the same thing.
There are also differences between how one screen magnifier will display a page verses another, and this is compounded by the diversity in how browsers display text. Screen magnification users may have to learn to configure how the text is displayed in the browser, as well as how to enhance the text with the magnifier, to identify the optimal viewing experience.
Q:Which screen reader, or magnifier, and browser combination do I need to learn?
A: As many as possible!
At one point it was safe to say that Microsoft Windows was the business standard, and that if one wanted to be successful in an employment environment they needed to be proficient with Windows, Internet Explorer and a Windows-based access technology. This is no longer the case, as business owners/operators have a variety of choices available to them, and select the hardware, software and web browsers that best meet the business needs as far a security, data sharing and other factors. Great news, many of the options available to employers are accessible to consumers of access technology! Bad news, this can make it difficult to know which access technology one should learn to use effectively.
If one limits him/herself to the use of a specific access technology, employment options could become limited. Title I of the ADA uses the term “reasonable accommodation” to allow employers and employees some leeway in job site accommodation. Is it reasonable to ask an employer to risk their companies security or, potentially, rebuild their communications and data sharing infrastructure to accommodate a single users preference in access technology when access is available through other access technology tools?
Share your thoughts in the comments!