Now that Newsgator has freely opened virtually all its software and web-based RSS aggregation services to everyone, a number of us decided to check out the new offerings for their accessibility to the blind and visually impaired. While we found that the Newsgator Online web-based RSS reader (the company’s answer to Bloglines) is wonderfully accessible and the Newsgator Inbox application remains available to us, it seems FeedDemon continues to lie just outside our reach. The potential for accessibility of this stand-alone RSS reader for Windows is clear to see; we all just need to come out in numbers asking Newsgator to make a few modifications which would result in the program’s usability with our assistive technology.

We are asking all blind and visually impaired people who avail themselves of one or more Newsgator services to utilize the Customer Feedback option in their accounts, send e-mail to Newsgator’s technical support team and, if it is possible to work around the inaccessible CAPTCHA, post a supportive note on this thread on the Newsgator Forum. As we are aware right now, two blind people have written to Newsgator asking for this accessibility. It is quite likely going to take a great deal more communication in order to make FeedDemon accessibility happen. I urge all of you to compose and send your notes to Newsgator as soon as possible.

January 13, 2008

Dear FeedDemon Developer Team,

I am writing to ask that Newsgator make the FeedDemon RSS reader application accessible to the assistive technologies on which blind and visually impaired people rely. FeedDemon is already widely recognized as the best desktop RSS reading client for the sighted; please make it so for the blind and visually impaired, too. We would like to be able to avail ourselves of all that FeedDemon has to offer, right alongside our sighted peers. We’re already using Newsgator Inbox, Newsgator Online and possibly other services; please add the demon to the list of those we are able to access.

I believe making FeedDemon more accessible would be rather inexpensive, and it would certainly serve to further increase its reach in the technology industry. For instance, educational institutions and government agencies now use blogs, podcasts and other RSS content on an increasingly frequent basis. Were FeedDemon made accessible, it could be used as the RSS reader of choice by these agencies, as it would be Section 508 compliant.

I have tried FeedDemon on for size, despite numerous reports of its inaccessibility. I believe there are a small number of changes that would move us in the right direction:

  1. Make the program’s pull down menu bar keyboard accessible.
  2. Enable the use of arrow key and tab keyboard navigation in the keyboard shortcuts and all FeedDemon options.
  3. Create a quick, keyboard accessible way to move between the list of feeds and the newspaper view for a particular feed.

I and many others in the blind community stand ready, willing and able to assist your developers in the task of making the application more accessible. Your confirmation and willingness to help is anticipated, and I thank you for your consideration.

Best regards,

Darrell Shandrow

Accessibility Evangelist