Back in December, I wrote an article called, “2014 In Review And Predictions For 2015” in which I somewhat disingenuously predict that this will be a big year for NVDA. I say “disingenuously” not because I don’t think this is true but, rather, because I had a lot of insider knowledge about some of the things that would happen with NVDA this year well in advance of the general public so I knew that some incredibly important developments in this popular free screen reader would be available to a broader audience in the first half of 2015.
One of these exciting developments motivated this article. It’s called NVDA Remote Access and brings functionality similar to JAWS Tandem to the world of people who use NVDA, currently the number two screen reader on the Windows operating system. For the reasons I’ll describe below, please click on this link, it will bring you to an Indie Go-Go fundraising page and donate some money to the project so my good friends and business partners Christopher Toth and Tyler Spivey can gather the funding necessary to bring this truly important bit of software to the NVDA using public.
This article is considerably shorter than my normal two to three thousand words on a subject. There’s little I can say that isn’t already discussed on the NVDA Remote Access Indie Go-Go campaign page, so please visit it to learn much more about this important bit of software.
NVDA Remote Access Basics
NVDA RA allows a user with the software installed to control another user’s PC who is also running the code. The two users agree on a secret term, they both connect to the same NVDA Remote Access server, type in their secret word and are immediately connected. This permits a variety of tasks that were previously impossible, most importantly hands-on technical support and training.
In brief, people can use NVDA RA to do nearly everything one can on a local computer while hearing what NVDA is saying on the remote system. Previously, one could purchase JAWS Tandem which, including JAWS, costs more than $1200 and, if this project gets its funding, they will now have this functionality for free.
Why NVDA Remote Access Is Important
For the past few years, I’ve heard from a lot of people around the business of bringing accessible solutions to large populations. These are the people who make purchasing decisions for entire states and federal agencies as well as individuals who use screen readers who have wanted to use a remote solution for any number of reasons. Plain and simply, they agree that NVDA is the best screen reading solution for Windows but they couldn’t use it because it had no functionality like that in JAWS Tandem, hence, it was difficult to provide hands-on support and training. With NVDA Remote Access installed, this problem disappears and, while I can’t say anything too specific about these developments due to NDA, some big time installations are rethinking JAWS and will likely switch to the profoundly more cost effective NVDA in the relatively short term future.
My Experience With NVDA RA
Recently, I made the decision to return to Windows as my full time platform and I’ll only use Macintosh for a handful of very specific tasks. The combination of NVDA and the Windows OS and software like FireFox, Chicken Nugget and QRead (coincidentally also written by Toth and Spivey), Microsoft Office and a variety of other applications simply work better for me than do their analogues on Macintosh. As I haven’t used Windows much since 2008 or so and that I’d never used Windows 8 for more than a couple of hours at a time, I needed a bunch of help setting up my new laptop. I didn’t even know all of the apps and utilities I should install and Tyler jumped in to help me.
Using NVDA Remote Access, Tyler was able to install a number of apps, utilities and the like, change my settings to something I would enjoy more and perform a variety of tasks to get me up and running. On his system, he heard NVDA speaking with his chosen synthesizer at his chosen speech rate while I enjoyed using my synthesizer and speech rate on my local system. All I had to do was sit back and hit Alt+y a few times when the UAC dialogues popped up. I’ve also had the opportunity to watch Tyler help his father, a 70 year old sighted technology neophyte, do all sorts of things on his computer as well.
NVDA Remote Access is a powerful tool in its prototype state and will be a killer app when it’s fully implemented.
Yesterday, Serotek announced that users could buy a “day pass” to use their RIM (Remote Incident Manager) software for $15 per 24 hours. Instead of paying Serotek $15 for a single day, please instead send those dollars to the NVDA Remote Access Indie Go-Go campaign and participate in building a much better program built into a much better screen reader that you and everyone else who cares to can use for free forever. If my typical average hit count of readers of this blog all kick in $20, the world will have NVDA RA for free, forever.
Please send some money to the NVDA Remote Access project. This is an important big step for free screen reading solutions and will be a force in accessibility for years to come.
Dan Clark says
I’ll only say three words, “Copycats, not leaders.” Enough said.
Drew M says
I’m going to just assume for the good of all involved that this is a troll. Surely, the real Dan Clark would not choose to publicly embroil his parent company in a completely unnecessary PR slap fight with the very community they theoretically exist to serve. Because that would be an exceedingly foolish thing for the real Dan Clark to do. A social media war would encourage the airing of dirty laundry, such as JAWS’s inherent stability issues, security leaks (deliberate or otherwise), and general lack of leadership in any sense for the past decade. It might even lead people to speculate why, rather than embracing this forward movement for millions of blind people worldwide for the positive step it is, they instead choose to stamp their feet and whine. IT WAS OURS FIRST!!! This is the refrain of a petty, tantrumming child.
Dan Clark is a fine, upstanding gentleman, who would never act in such a manner. Yes? Yes. Alright. Excellent.
I’ll remember this when my SMA is up for renewal. After all, we have WindowEyes for the workplace. Seriously copycats? Guess I better go back to windows media player, because winamp/foobar2000/vlc, those darn cheapscate copycats! So hard to sensor myself.
Regardless if it is copycat or not. The fact that this is offered for free means a lot for a lot of users. Especially those in developing markets that are unable to purchase JAWS and do not have any help from their governmental agencies.
So cry copycat all you want, blame them of following as much as you want, the users will decide which product to support. And if the funding page is any indication, I believe the users have spoken, loudly.
You know what bugs me the most about this? It’s that one of the only reasons I even still have jaws around at all is for helping an older blind friend with computer problems. I don’t get payed for this, and I wouldn’t want to make it an issue, but that’s the only reason I use JAWS. If this NVDA remote happens, there will be very little reason for people not to use NVDA. That will be a good day and I can then help her a lot more efficiently and she won’t have to worry about paying a blindy tax to use her computer the way that’s easiest.
Michael Hansen says
I have no words.
I’ve used JAWS for going on 13 years. When I was younger, I aspired to one day work at FS because I admired the work your company did.
When I see things like your above comment–which says a lot more about your company than it ever will about the NVDA RA effort–I’m reminded of why I’ve chosen another career path. It’s also a lesson in how a brand can be affected simply by the social media comments posted by an employee of the company.
I am amused. Nothing wrong with copycats, especially if what they make is free or low cost. NVDA is like the generic medicine of screen readers, just as good as the expensive stuff, but way cheaper.
I agree. Not to crap on the people who created the foundation we use or whatever, but it’s progress that there is a standard that’s free that is so damn usable compared to the $1000 readers we were forced to upgrade every four years for the last 20 years or so.
Simon Jaeger says
Oh sorry, I totally forgot that Freedom Scientific invented remote access.
They invented charging $1000 for the privileged: Get it right, good sir.
Travis Roth says
Congratulations for meeting the goal and ot everyone who stepped forward. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, just a reminder, I am sure NV Access would also appreciate some financial support. And without NVDA there is no NVDA Remote Access.
Yes I donated to both. Wish I could afford more but dev time is expensive and businesses are to scared of open source software for no good reason/paranoia. It just sucks that there are still valid reasons to use a payed solution around the world.
lol copy cats!!! wow the FS guys are sounding concerned if that comment abounds there. Rubbishing the efforts of an open source screen reader that is thousands of peoples only option is pretty poor form. I too have been a Jaws user for nearly 20 years and am happy to see some real competition for the monolith if it keeps them on their toes. NVDA is a viable alternative these days and Jamie, Mick and the crew need to be congratulated for creating the platform that can make this happen and I reiterate the previous comment about donating to them as well.If Jaws was free and open source then you might have a leg to stand on Dan.
Joseph Lee says
First, I do understand why Dan might say NVDA is a copycat. It is true that NVDA copied some basic commands and concepts from JAWS for Windows (it can be argued that without a foundation, NVDA would not have existed). However, as some commenters pointed out, it may have been quite inappropriate to say things like that, which may tarnish the brand and image of Freedom Scientific, especially coming from someone who is admired by blindness community for his expertise on JAWS, and in general, screen reading technology. Not only the comment that Dan made a potential embarrassment to Freedom Scientific and JAWS for Windows, it could potentially escalate to mistrust between Freedom Scientific and its users, between screen reader developers and blindness community as a whole. Although the blog here has a history of criticizing Freedom Scientific (Chris, I don’t mean to say that in a bad way), labeling NVDA (and in extension, NV Access) using that kind of derogatory statement (like what Dan wrote) is, in my opinion, not called for on a public forum like this (hypothetically, somebody may say to Freedom Scientific, “you are a monopoly monster”, itself an insult to FS and blindness community as well; as for someone calling FS like that, even I, a contributor to the competition, would shake my head when I see phrases like this, as it is very detrimental to continued advocacy for access to information for blind computer users).
But like… so what! Copying is the only way we can progress. How many different ways could you control windows anyway?
I’m disappointed by Dan’s comment. I would have expected it from some others at FS but not him. FS has certainly copied its share of things from others, particularly Serotek, then turned around and sued others for supposed copying. It saddens me greatly, because I no longer have the respect for them that I once did. NVDA is offering things to the normal user that are pretty much unreachable through FS. Serotek has done this as well, though remote access with them has its own limitations. More choices is never a bad thing.
Meagan Houle says
First and most important, thank you to all who make NVDA possible for so many around the world who have no alternative. This service is more than worth the extortionate $1200 price tag FS puts on its own products.
Second: Mr. Clark, I hope you one day realize the folly of your bitterness and learn to embrace support for visually impaired people instead of helping to perpetuate accessibility at a price few can afford. It won’t matter if NVDA were to copy JAWS in every respect, because one day people won’t have to put up with it anymore.
It’s amazing what crowd sourcing can do. If the project is worthy, it will not lack funding. Maybe the copycat will get it done better. Best of all, it is free!!
Yes, Freedom-scientific learn to appreciate what others do. IT is not all about the money. Some tines, what people do makes a big difference to the world. I am a jaws user my self but that was very rude and not necessary.
Bhavya Shah says
An excellent initiative this NVDA Remote Access project is, undoubtedly, and due to much interest in it, it reached its target funding goal with two days. NVDA is a fully functional and very competitive screen reader now, and the time has come to forget our affection with JAWS!
brandon armstrong says
I use to be a jaws user, when I was in high school, you know, when it read things and did stuff? despite what mr. clark says the main stream companies like apple have copied stuff, and you don’t hear them bitching about copying other companies. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it, FS, has been, and is, still to this day a monopoly monster, who cares nothing about the customer, and the user experience, all they want is money, where as NVDA cares about the customer experience, you know, like you use to get way back in the 90’s with the training tapes? anyone remember how good they were back then, before mr. clark took over, you learned things, and not this let’s slap it together in five minutes and get in a hurry to get through basic things either. why can’t we have that kind of access back mr. clark, you know, good training materials, not rush jobs, and flaws reads and does things for the customer, you know, so we feel like we get what we pay for?
Sky Mundell says
Like everyone else, I am totally disgusted with Dan Clarks comments. NVDA has done a fantastic job, and they should be congratulated by the community. So between NVDA improvements, Apple VoiceOver, and Window-Eyes’s extended partnerships JAWS will continue to fall. I imagine where business’s and government agencies won’t have to shed money to Freedom because of the viable alternitives . JAWS can’t last in the current state of these alternitives.
I notice the first comment to this entry does not have a link attached to the name, so we can’t verify the source. I would certainly hope that the real Dan Clark wouldn’t do something so foolish like that. But having said that, I can’t wait to get my hands on NVDA Remote Access. I currently use VoiceOver on a MacBook Air. Not to keep sounding like a broken record, but this is my first Mac computer and I’m quite impressed thus far with everything Apple has done. However, being the techno geek that I have become, I really want to install Windows on here some day soon and check this thing out that these guys have worked on. NVDA is an excellent screen reader, and you certainly can’t beat the price. NVDA Remote Access is free too, which definitely beats using a similar solution which is a lot more restrictive and costs an arm and a leg. No offense FS, but your solutions are too costly for this poster.
Joe Orozco says
I’m a bit late to the commenting party. Yet, I wanted to celebrate Chris Hofstader’s own contributions to this assistive technology revolution. Surely your adamant writing has inspired people to go out and seek more innovative ways to access technology that is far from the traditional path we’d all been accustomed to. Hear hear for choice. Now we can actually enjoy choices that originate from our own community of users. Thank you for what you do.