We all want to do our best to make sure our Web sites and applications are used by the entire Internet-loving world. But organizations small and large are often limited by time, software, and/or budget when it comes to making Web sites that are accessible, especially for the blind community using screen readers. Screen reader software can be prohibitively expensive and limited to installation on one computer. So testing for screen reader compatibility will have you chained to the QA lab.
In comes the University of Washington to the rescue. The Department of Computer Science and Engineering recently publicized the Alpha Release of WebAnywhere. WebAnywhere is a free, Web-based application that allows you to hear your Web site. Go to the web, enter your Web site’s URL, click go, and listen.
WebAnywhere is not nearly as sophisticated as its more expensive counterparts. All your Flash and Rich Text Applications, accessible or otherwise, may not be accurately interpreted. If your Web application has an accessibility mandate, you still need to spend the time and money to make sure your site is in compliance. But, with WebAnywhere, you can get a good sense of how a screen reader may interpret your site, which basic accessibility items may have been missed (alt tags, anyone?), and which portions of your site may be troubling to those using screen readers.