Since my middle school days,I did all of my computing either with a braille notetaking device or on a computer. People told me that, with the limited vision I had, a screen magnifier would be the best access technology for me to use. So, for years I was convinced that screen magnification should be my tool of choice. Halfway through middle school I noticed that my classmates with total vision impairment could get around the internet, e-mail, documents and the whole computer system a lot faster than I could. When I saw this I wanted to try my hand at this screen reader thing. I was fed up with some of the inefficiencies inherent to using a screen magnifier, having to move my mouse in circles just to find what I wanted, making sighted people “sea sick” when I tried to show them what I was looking at and various other aspects of such that wasted my time and energy.
I was introduced to and fell in love with the JAWS screen reader. I could navigate my Windows computer efficiently and perform every task I needed to do without getting headaches and having to stop for periods of time to let my eyes rest. I could now work as rapidly as my classmates at typing and everything else they were doing at the time.
Over the years, I enjoyed innovations from Freedom Scientific, the authors and publishers of JAWS, as they developed it into an excellent peace of software. As I got older, I continued to use screen readers as my primary modality for interacting with computers. I was finding that JAWS got slower and less innovative, and require more system resources. Also JAWS has more features than you can shake a stick at, you probably will never know they are there and will probably never use them. I’m not saying that a company isn’t innovating by adding new features for every upgrade. However, why not look at what your product is doing to a computer’s system and fix the bloat and crap that a lot of people will never use. Or even better yet make two versions of your software. One for the average consumer and the other for the professional in the workspace environment.
After high school I continued to use JAWS. The vocational/rehab services in my state all seemed to live by the notion that if you don’t know JAWS then you’re dumb. A few years ago, I tried using Macintosh OSX Snow Leopard and I didn’t care for it, but,. VoiceOver, the Apple screen reader included with all of their devices,,, Even though I didn’t like it much personally, at the time I had to acknowledge that Apple was making progress.
In 2009 I swore by Apple’s iPhone. It was the best mobile device ever; android, while I had heard it was becoming accessible, wasn’t even a factor in my mind. here I am with the device and loving how for the first time I could use a touch screen device. Apple was once again innovating and it was amazing. A friend of mine had an Android device back then. His HTC G2 ran android os 2.3 and it felt foreign to me. He would talk about things I didn’t understand. He’d discuss rooting, modding, unlocking, boot loaders etc. The list was endless and it was unfamiliar to me.
Fast forward to the present and with each upgrade of Apple’s iOS devices, I observe that few bugs get fixed and that iOS is becoming stale. iOS 7 brings only a new UI interface and a few new things in VoiceOver. ; Android, in the meantime, progresses rapidly and its marketshare among our community grows
While VoiceOver remains largely unchanged.
Talkback, Google’s Android screen reader, continues to evolve and get shaped by both professional software engineers at Google and independent, volunteer hackers who, due to its open source philosophy have access to its code and, as a result, can work on the software themselves. when he took on the role of Director of Access Technology at Free Software Foundation (FSF), Chris Hofstader, the owner of this site, an iOS accessibility supporter, and a prominent critic of Android accessibility, wrote that the free software, open source model was the only way that people with print disabilities can “own their own technological destiny.” With Google’s open model, programmers in this community can participate in the development of the tools they need to use; with Apple’s pathological secrecy, it’s impossible to even know what they are working on and, without any way to effect change in VoiceOver in a substantive manner, we haven’t the freedom to even participate in shaping its future.
In my opinion, innovation in screen reading with Apple products is an unlikely outcome. Sure some things may get fixed but when and what else is going to be broken? How long is Apple going to take on fixing bugs? No one will ever know.
Technology is changing every single day. New devices, services, and cloud computing are become not of a star trek era but the here and now. Most everything is done in the cloud and can be accessed online through as many different computers as anyone of us can get our hands on. Why be stuck in the past when you can be pulled and lead into the future.