I was interested to read inSetting sites on Section 508
about an accessibility tool built into Windows XP:
"There is a decent screen magnifier in Windows XP, which also includes a text-to-speech tool called Narrator. It is pretty limited and is only available in English, but it provides a useful tool in Notepad, Wordpad, Control Panel and Internet Explorer, as well as the Windows desktop and Windows setup."
You can launch Narrator easily by pressing the Windows logo key and the U key, which also lets you start and stop the tool. The disappointing thing was that I could not figure out how to get the Narrator to read the content of a web page; only system menus and page titles.
In general, I've found that non-disabled web users are fascinated to see and hear how a text browser works, and it makes the whole issue of accessibility much more real and personal.
I'm planning to install a commercial text browser on my laptop so I can regularly include this in demonstrations. Narrator will be a nice demonstration tool when I'm in a meeting and need to demo what it's like to have a screen read to you -- and how difficult it is to understand a page when accessibility measures are not taken.
Chris Steins is co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Planetizen.