Monday, February 04, 2008

Business merger could mean accessibility gains

If you didn’t hear the news last week,
Microsoft is looking to buy Yahoo.
This is really big news in both the business and technology worlds. Microsoft’s CEO believes acquiring the search engine Yahoo would give his company leverage in the online advertising market where Google rules supreme.

So, why am I writing about this here on Access Ability?

The answer is accessibility. Microsoft has worked to integrate accessibility into its products, even allowing engineers from the major assistive technology companies to have advance access to their code when they are working on new operating systems. They do this so that the AT software and hardware can be ready to run upon the new operating system’s release. One can only be optimistic and hope that if Microsoft were to buy Yahoo, then this attention to accessibility would carryover to the new property as well.

I’ve griped here before about Yahoo’s CAPTCHA spam prevention and new mail program, explaining how these were both inaccessible, and that the company seemed to be nonchalant about the accessibility needs of blind computer users. Maybe, just maybe that would change if Microsoft were to buy Yahoo.

This won’t happen overnight, though. There are several issues that the Federal Trade Commission will need to closely examine and scrutinize before such a transaction is allowed to progress. However, the time it takes for all to take place will be well worth it if Microsoft can bring about accessible change at the search engine.


Darrell said...

Unfortunately, Microsoft's audio CAPTCHA is almost entirely useless. Many blind people, including myself, are unable to solve it most of the time. I have made a press inquiry with Microsoft's PR firm as another avenue to try and get this issue addressed. The background of Microsoft's audio CAPTCHA needs to be adjusted so that some of the voices don't sound like other numbers to be entered, and the foreground voice needs to be brought up just a bit as well.

Ron Graham said...


I’ve tried Microsoft’s audio CAPTCHA and agree that it could use some fine tuning. Hopefully, your inquiry with their PR firm will result in some tweaking.

Aside from that, I still commend MS on the strides they have made in considering accessibility in product design. While I’ve not tried it myself, from other reports that I’ve read, I understand that the voice recognition program in Windows Vista is very decent, if not good. And while their own screen reader is primitive, at best, it has been useful on more than one occasion with a system computer for me to initiate my own assistive technology on an XP system.

All I am inferring in this post is that Microsoft seems to have some insight to the advantages of providing accessibility, while Yahoo has very often ignored this. I don’t think that a Microsoft-Yahoo merger is an overall great deal, much less that it will really help either company to be much stronger against Google, but I do think that Microsoft can affect change within Yahoo in regards to giving a greater appreciation for providing accessibility to their users.

I did find it interesting, though, that my last post about the inaccessibility of Yahoo’s new mail interface, I did receive about 20 visits from Yahoo corporate servers. Outside of the first one, which was opened as a search query result, the rest of those visits were from an unknown source. This infers to me that the first reader copied the URL and shared it via email with others inside of Yahoo. Again, they can not feign ignorance of the issue.

Thanks again for the feedback.