screen readers

Most email newsletters are garbage

Most newsletters these days aren’t sent with normal mailng list software, but from commercial providers like MailChimp. This probably has a lot to do with the fear of being accused of sending spam.

The thing is most of these newsletters are garbage: long and unpronunciable links, images with no alt text. Since these are often just a series of images, the entire newsletter often contain no information at all – other than the address of the sender at the end.

Here’s a typical link dump, from the Mountain Equipment Co‑op:

Screen shot of a newsletter from the MEC
A screenful of text from a recent newsletter from the MEC. The newsletter consists only of a series of linkified images. None of the images have proper alt text. All the links are spammy-looking, obfuscated, unpronounciable tracker links that hardly even fit on a 145-column terminal.

Do you think anyone who sees this kind of garbage will bother opening the images to see what the images say? (Let’s assume you actually can see.) Nope, I don’t think so?

Why then do these companies spend so much time sending garbage like this?

You can do bettter.

And some have done better. Here’s one from the Association of Registered Graphic Designers:

Screen shot of a newsletter from the RGD
A screenful of text from a recent newsletter from the RGD. The newsletter consists of readable paragraphs. Links are relatively short and pronunciable, although some can obviously be shortened further.

Which one do you prefer, as a reader?

Is a system-provided screen reader necessarily stable?

I should not be doing this at such a time in the semester, but I kept the screen reader running for a few hours today, and I found, to my dismay, that the answer is no. A system-provided screen reader is not necessarily stable. The first program to fall victim to instability was Terminal. It started crashing for no apparent reason, and at one point it repeatedly crashed after less than a couple of minutes of usage. Terminal and VoiceOver do not play well together. The second program to fall victim to instability was Safari. After a few hours of screen reader usage, Safari started to stop responding to tab switching. Turning VoiceOver off immediately fixed the problem. Turning it on caused the problem to resurface after just a couple of minutes. If such is the stability of a screen reader built into the OS, I wonder what kind of stability third-party screen readers on other platforms can really achieve.
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