On the Monday of Thanksgiving week 2004, I walked into my St. Petersburg office for the last time as a Freedom Scientific employee. I had, at that point, been at the helm of the FS software engineering department for six years but, as Lee Hamilton, then CEO of Freedom Scientific told me that day, I was, “no longer capable of managing the team.” He was right, I had burned out very badly and was in terrible physical and mental shape. My repetitive strain injuries (RSI) caused me constant pain and the Vicodin prescribed by my physician had too many cognitive side effects to permit me from having a clear enough mind to perform my tasks while the steroidal injections I received for the same injuries had intense emotional side effects that felt like I was on cocaine or methamphetimine.
While my final few months at Freedom Scientific were a personal disaster for me and not too good for FS or its customers, I am very proud of the many things we accomplished during my six year tenure. During that time, Eric Damery, Glen Gordon and I invented a ton of new screen reader features now seen in all such utilities on Windows.
What Did We Accomplish?
In my time at FS, six years ending in November 2004, our little team released versions of JAWS beginning with 2.51 (a minimal update to fix an authorization problem in the 40 minute demo) to JAWS 3.31, the first screen reader to add what is now the essential virtual buffer on the Internet in all screen readers to JAWS 6 the last JAWS in which I participated. In those release we added new and interesting features with each revision and pushed the user interface of screen readers forward every six months or so.
In that period at Freedom Scientific we:
- Invented the virtual buffer concept for delivering web information to JAWS users.
- Invented the idea of querying applications through a private interface to gather and present information to our users – a concept used today in JAWS, Window-Eyes, NVDA, System Access and Orca screen readers.
- Provided the first ever ways of reading charts and graphs in a major screen reader.
- Advanced usability of office suites in a way never previously seen in a screen reader.
- Invented the now ubiquitous “QUick Keys” style of navigating web pages more efficiently.
- Added the JAWS “Speech and Sounds Manager” for adding tonal augmentations to information, thus, expanding the number of simultaneous semantic dimensions enjoyed by users.
- Added features to “intelligently” skip beyond repeated information on web pages.
- Added features to recognize similar documents and spreadsheets and automatically apply a set of adjustments for reading the data.
- And many more innovations in screen reading user interfaces that you can find by looking up the “What’s New” sections of the release notes for these JAWS releases..
Returning To Windows
I hadn’t used a Windows computer or a Windows screen reader in more than five years but, recently have found that VoiceOver on Macintosh can’t provide the level of support I need so, I downloaded and installed VMWare Fusion, Windows 7 and NVDA. Once everything was up and running, I started exploring this terrific free screen reader.
The first thing I noticed was that NVDA has adopted many of the ideas that we invented in JAWS. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that, thankfully, most of our innovations happened before FS became crazy about patent applications and aggressive lawsuits so our most important ideas seem to have made it to other screen readers and it’s nice to see my work so widely accepted in virtually all Windows screen readers and in Orca on the GNU/Linux platform.
I continued to read the NVDA documentation to see what new and noteworthy concepts have been invented in the nine years since I walked out of Freedom Scientific on that November morning. The first thing I found was a gesture based navigation system, a notion first introduced by Apple in VoiceOver for iOS and adopted by NVDA first and, based on statements made at CSUN this year, will be added to JAWS this autumn. I looked further and found nothing new. I read up on JAWS, once the hands down leader in innovation and found nothing new there in many years either.
So, in a decade, the only new ideas in screen readers have come not from a small, highly focused screen reader company but, rather, from a mainstream super power. Ted Henter’s prediction that big mainstream companies making screen readers would result in a failure to innovate seems to be partially true, Apple innovated at first but has allowed the OSX version of VoiceOver to deteriorate and they haven’t expanded on really good ideas that are present but incomplete but, contrary to his prediction, the smaller, blindness specific companies have done nothing new or interesting in years either.
Was I That Important?
At Henter-Joyce and, after our merger, Freedom Scientific, the best ideas came out of a collaboration mostly between me, Eric Damery, Glen Gordon and Joseph Stephen. Some of these ideas started as hallway conversations with other employees, phone conversations with beta testers, questions from our technical support staff and lots of other sources. I was usually the person who wrote up the ideas into a formal specification (FS product managers seem to have some kind of innate aversion to writing anything down) and, sometimes, I originated the notion but, by the time it became a task to add it to JAWS, the concept would have been thoroughly reviewed multiple times by Eric, Glen, Joe and, often, Ted Henter.
Eric, Glen, Joe and lots of other smart and interesting JAWS users (yes, although sighted, Eric can use JAWS with any power users out there) remain at FS. I don’t think they lost all of their creativity and ability to come up with new and valuable features for JAWS so what has gone wrong in the screen reader business?
Leaders Who Are Blind
As far as I can tell, other than Mike Calvo, CEO of Serotek, makers of the System Access screen reader, I was the last blind person with direct authority over a commercial screen reader and, as System Access has never had a large user base, the last blind person with direct authority over a widely used commercial screen reader. System Access, in its hey day was a pretty innovative screen reader and Mike’s influence as a user advanced features like their “See Saw” global “dictionary” for web sites, the end of “Forms mode” (something Glen and I invented that wasn’t the greatest idea), the first ever “virtual” screen reader and a variety of other excellent concepts. I’ll contend that these happened in SA because it is a project led by a blind user of the software.
Reexamining how we invented things at Freedom Scientific, I recall that, often, the best ideas came out of frustration. Joe Stephen wanted to read notes in braille different from the contents of PowerPoint slides so we added the ability to have one stream of information go to the speech synthesizer while another went to the braille display. I got sick of making all of the JAWS settings just to read the FS financials on a weekly basis so we invented a way that JAWS could recognize different but similar spreadsheets and automatically apply the settings. We invented Quick Keys while Glen and I talked on the phone about single letter navigation in some emacs scripts. Most of our best ideas grew out of desires by actual users in our employ.
Why Doesn’t NVDA Take The Lead?
NVDA is an excellent free, no cost screen reader for Windows. As far as I know, all of its code is written by blind people who use the software as their primary means of interacting with Windows computers. Why, then, don’t they innovate?
NVDA, as far as I can tell, is written almost entirely by two guys. These guys are really smart and creative fellows and were the first to bring gesture navigation to Windows for screen reader users, a concept, while not novel, that is both powerful and useful. Nonetheless, it is a large and complicated bit of software that requires all of the maintenance of JAWS without anything approaching the FS ability to invest in a project.
Screen Reader Funding Models
There are three major ways to fund a screen reader’s development. A large mainstream company like Apple or Microsoft can make their own screen reader motivated by federal and state regulations requiring accessibility as a condition of sale. A free software screen reader like NVDA or Orca can be funded by corporate dollars contributed to the effort, by contributions from users and the general public and by selling services to support development. Lastly, a commercial technology company like Freedom Scientific or GW Micro can fund their research and development costs from sales of their products.
When I left FS in 2004, we were selling about $1.2 million worth of JAWS per month. We were spending less than one million dollars annually to make JAWS (including software engineering, testing, scripting, product management and sales roll outs) and, when I ran the project, I insisted we spend some of this money on innovation in JAWS and our other software products.
One might ask, if you made about $15 million on JAWS sales, how did Freedom Scientific spend the money? In that final year at FS, we reported a total profit to our investors of $6 million so where did $9 million in JAWS sales alone go?
The answer is simple, Lee Hamilton (then FS CEO) and the FS board of directors saw blindness and low vision hardware as their future and invested heavily in the hardware division while allowing JAWS to stagnate. The authors and publishers of the then world’s leading screen reader milked its sales dollars to try to expand their business with products like PAC Mate, Focus and a whole pile of digital magnifiers. So, for all intents and purposes, new JAWS sales and SMA dollars were spent not on the screen reader but, rather, incredibly high margin hardware devices – an outcome not terribly good for JAWS users.
At the time I left FS, it cost the company about $400 to manufacture, package and ship a PAC Mate BX 440 (then a fast processor and a 40 cell display) and we would sell them for about $5000. JAWS, on the other hand, sold for about $900 so, the most we could make on the software was limited by its price while we could enjoy $4600 of pure profit on each PM sold. Today, I’m told that a digital magnifier costs a tiny amount in parts and manufacturing but they also sell with windfall level profits.
For its business, taking the lucrative JAWS as a funding source for hardware made a lot of sense. It did nothing for the companies customers though.
I have always been one who fights for what he thinks is right. While at Freedom Scientific, I had huge arguments with our CEO over whether or not we should invest in a wide variety of different ideas. I lost most of these battles but had my share of wins and I’m proud of the work we did with JAWS, OpenBook, MAGic and our other software projects back then. At the same time, I can only think that what stopped innovation at FS may be the lack of “fight” in those I left behind.
More so than anyone else at FS other than me, Eric Damery has always been the guy to push hard for new features that can improve the experience for JAWS users. Meanwhile, Eric is bound by the toughest non-compete agreement in the business and a salary that would be impossible for him to get in any other field. Eric is bound by contract and golden handcuffs from doing anything too bold. I was stupid, I thought I could leave Fs and continue in accessibility but, over my first two years out of FS, they threatened me with legal action nine separate times and I serve as an example for any other FS executive who may consider moving on.
Glen Gordon, one of the smartest and most creative software developers with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of working, is the FS chief technical officer who had it really easy when Ted Henter ran the company. When Ted was around, we merely had to pitch a good idea and Ted, a user himself, would embrace it and we could go off and do the implementation. After the merger, Glen retreated and would ask me to fight the good fight, a role that ultimately destroyed my career at the company.
Joseph Stephen, Rob Gallo and some others with a high level of creativity are in positions too junior to have access to the executive committee and others in decision making positions. Hence, without Eric or one of the blinks in the executive suite fighting for an idea, something my sighted replacement hasn’t (according to reports I get from friends who remain inside FS) even once.
So, while the ideas weren’t mine exclusively, my role at FS led both the advancement of JAWS and that of screen readers from our competitors. Without JAWS leading, I doubt any Windows screen reader ever will again unless Microsoft decides to either license NVDA or make a truly usable Narrator.
What Did Users Miss?
I cannot speak to any ideas discussed within Freedom Scientific after I left the company in November 2004. I suspect Glen and Eric presented a bunch of good ideas that have been ignored. I can, however, speak to the projects I had going at FS that were canceled upon my departure. I’m not sure all of these were good ideas but, compared to what FS has done since, they were certainly bold, creative and, perhaps useful. As these notions never saw a commercial release, we cannot know the actual impact they may have had if they fell into the hands of users in the wild.
The projects they killed were:
JAWS for Macintosh was requested of us by the third party development people at Apple. I had formed a relationship with the people at Apple and, when they asked us to propose doing a Macintosh version of JAWS, I pitched the idea at an executive staff meeting and was nearly laughed out the door. In the latest marketshare figures I could find, VoiceOver and NVDA are the only two screen readers showing growth. Could we have made something better than VoiceOver? I think so.
JAWS on mainstream Windows Mobile devices was not just possible but something we already had running on both iPaq and the Dell Axim. Lee Hamilton said that such would compete with PAC Mate and, instead of allowing JAWS to grow with mainstream hardware, FS insisted on forcing its blind users into the ghetto with a massively more expensive hardware device with all of the social grace of a brick. Our friends at Code Factory did make this into a reality but with their minimal ability to market their products, uptake was slow and, as the accessibility of the Windows Mobile platform ecosystem decayed, their screen reader died on the vine.
We had started a project into making JAWS for Symbian cell phones. While today, years after the death of Nokia’s OS, this seemed like a bad idea, then, with Nokia on top of the world, we could have produced and sold a killer screen reader on more mainstream hardware. Again, the Code Factory team and my late friend Torsten Brandt, with his Talx screen reader (sadly, I could not find online references to either my late friend or his software to add as a link) got their first and provided excellent access for a whole lot of years.
We had a blind mathematician and screen reader power user designing a 3D interface for a tool for reading and writing math. Ted Henter had already started HenterMath and was doing some really interesting things with user interface for blind people who wanted to manipulate equations but he was also based in JAWS as it was, a unidimensional approach to the information. I thought we could do something really great with math for our users but, within a week or two of my departure, the project was killed. Blind people, meanwhile, have no good math tool to this day.
We had my friend Will Pearson on the payroll as a contractor working on a “machine vision” approach to screen reading. At the same time, we had a terrific gal, an awesome hacker with a solid computer science background working toward a rectangular approach to a screen reader interface. Combining these two concepts, we could have provided a layout similar to one with vision would see. We could have used positional information to better increase reading efficiency while also presenting the semantic information that comes from a visual layout – ideas that, to my knowledge, have only otherwise been explored by researchers in labs.
Where Did FS Invest In JAWS?
On the day I left FS, my friend and terrific young hacker, Waishan Lau was leading the cell phone screen reader project. Within a week of my departure, her project had been canceled and she was put back onto her previous task, namely, JAWS authorization. Waishan, now working in California at a health informatics business in Palo Alto, is one of the hottest hackers with whom I’ve ever worked. She is a brilliant and beautiful young woman who can code rings around most others in or out of FS. Her terrific talents were used almost exclusively on copy protection – a feature that no user actually enjoys.
Freedom Scientific does continue to invest in JAWS. Their advancements, though, are minimal. They support the latest and greatest MS operating systems, they try to support the most recent versions of Microsoft Office and, now and then, they add a new feature that will be mostly ignored by the user base. FS is happy making its annual release and taking the SMA dollars from its users whether or not they add anything of any actual value to those users. Supporting the latest OS may not be easy but it’s something that no other software companies charge for.
So, Maybe I Was Important
For years, I thought my years at Freedom Scientific had ended in failure. I couldn’t, due to health problems, continue to lead that team any longer. I still had the odd good idea but constant chronic pain while unable to sleep from the steroids drove me into a very bad place. Fighting every step of the way for innovation in JAWS and our other products nearly killed me.
Looking back, though, on the accomplishments we made, the major strides in screen reader user interface and the tremendous improvements we made in the lives of JAWS users in the workplace, I’m reminded that we did a lot of good stuff.
Perhaps, our success relied on the odd combination of actors in our story. Eric Damery’s undying commitment to our users, Glen Gordon’s software engineering genius telling us what was possible, Joseph Stephen adding ideas to JAWS application support while we were asleep and my creativity mixed with my insanity, a crazy that says that we can do incredible things in spite of having to fight within the company to do so that led to those great years in screen reader development. I don’t know why it worked so well for us in those days but I will state that I believe it had more to do with having a blind person in charge of the product than any of our individual contributions.
I made a huge difference at FS because, in spite of having to fight so much to get anything interesting done in the post merger era, I was willing, no matter how much pain I experienced, no matter how personally painful it was to see great ideas and support for mainstream hardware killed, I kept fighting until my last day. Without such an advocate within the company, I can’t see innovation happening again until a major screen reader is once again led by a user.
Mike Calvo says
This is one of the best pieces you have ever done! I thank you so much for your willingness to be transparent and give each and every one of us a peak behind the curtain. It takes balls and great character to tell the truth!
I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I am standing On The Sholders Of Giants If it wasn’t for hackers like you and the team you lead, Serotek wouldn’t have ever been possible. When the history books are written You will be called a legend. I am honored to know you and call you my friend!
thank You for your energy and unending desire to make the World a better place! I love you man! Keep up the great writing and don’t ever stop fighting the good fight!
Marcie Brink-Chaney says
As an instructor of blind and low vision computer users, teaching them to use screen access software screen readers and magnification programs, I’ve found that the two major screen reader program developers Freedom Scientific and GW Micro seem to be “keeping up with the Joneses” by trying to make their screen readers work with the latest operating systems for Microsoft. I believe that the future of computers will be going away from the desktop. The more lap tops become more robust, the more they will be used in place of desktop computers. Even more flexible are cell phones and tablet computers. If these can be made accessible directly by the companies that produce them, screen readers will be unnecessary. Currently, I recommend to my students that if they can get NVDA, they should download it to make their computers accessible. Some of them have not been able to use their computers since they lost their vision and they can’t afford an expensive screen reading program. I would purchase an Apple computer which is accessible out of the box. However, I don’t know if the printers, embosser, scanner and the server software in my home would work with Apple products. I have also had at least one student who has memory issues and can only use one hand without difficulty. I trained her to use an Iphone and an Ipad mini because she just had to move her finger around the screen and when she found the letter she wanted on the on screen keyboard, she just lifted her finger and it would say and type the letter for her. Magnification can be used with Voice Over on all of the Apple products and this benefits my students. The latest thing I’ve seen is a tablet which hooks into a portable keyboard and can be used with or without the keyboard. If that can be accessible, she will have something easy to use and carry. Right now, our assessment for college students is not keeping up with the technology. Everyone needs to be able to use computers to do word processing so that they can do college assignments and even take notes at school. Jaws and Window Eyes need to be able to be used with tablets, cell phones and laptops and who knows, they may need to be able to work with these special glasses Google has just come up with to access the internet and do other activities you could ordinarily do on a computer.
Al Hoffman says
I think this is a great article, even if a bit self serving.
I’m not sure I accept the conclusion. Its not the blindness that makes the person good at the job, it’s the energy, interest and commitment. I used to evaluate and play with screen readers in my spare time, or sometimes even in my not spare time because I was so interested in the subject. I was sort of good at internet business because I saw so many things to do new, but it wasn’t because I was blind. I also would ask the question what would be your list of four or five things you think we should have done since then when in reality the windows interface hasn’t changed a hell of a lot until windows 8 really. We got a bit better UIA to replace MSAA, still had mirror drivers now called assistive technology interface in Windows 8, and still have keyboard driven apps. I suspect Doug Houser at GW might contest the claim to inventing the whole accessibility programming interface concept as well. They figured out most of the general basics by JAWS v5 really, and in reality by v3.x had the proofs of concept operating with bugs. I don’t think porting JAWS to multiple platforms is really that evolutionary but sure would have been nice and would have made FS a lot more money in the long run. FS could have owned this space even harder than they already do by simply re-using the technology base they built. Pretty stupid of them not to get higher return on investment from that. I suspect you could have easily provided ideas behind the scenes to folks who wanted to build a better mouse trap, noncompete or not. But I’d agree there hasn’t been much innovation in this space for years now, and until the basic interface changes I don’t expct much unless someone can really figure out a realtime screen watcher that can “know” what you need to read and be right almost 100% of the time. The demand for new and novel screen readers decreased because the basics were covered—80/20 rule. Just as DOS screen reader innovation died off, Windows innovation died off because the actual framework didn’t change that much and people had the minimal support they wanted. People don’t push for more unless their needs are not met. I hope Fs lost a lot of money on the hardware market because in my opinion they suck at such products. They are over priced pieces of junk for the most part of which I couldn’t see how one could possibly be proud.
If you asked me what are the few things we should have had done by now for screen reader for windows I’d say full integration with .net programming to allow 3rd party applications to be used to write scripts, a heuristic learning interface to learn what users need spoken, in what order, for things that don’t read well, and a way to drive Braille displays to present multiple independently viewable windows simultaneously—or a three line 40 cell wide display driver and hardware. They could have licensed JAWS for testing purposes as I raised numerous times and gotten revenue there for no investment. They could have implemented the OCR thing they have done so badly now a lot sooner if they had been interested. They could have done a lot better job working with the Citrix folks, and could have worked with Microsoft to build the JAWS functionality in to Windows as a supporting feature for remote access which still sucks in Windows.
Steve Lee says
Chris, thanks for the obviously painful and heartfelt post.
Re innovation, most large companies stop innovating unless they divide into small groups or embrace open innovation. That said, something seems to have gone very wrong at FS as I’ve heard first hand tales of pain from another developer who left them a few years back (and who incidentally has gone on to great things since breaking free).
As for NVDA, well in addition to Mike and Jamie there are others in the core team including one who works on the Arabic translation and other key features. However, as turned out to be a very hot topic at our AT Summit at Mozilla London last year, they really must grow and diversify the community in order to attract more users and developers and so accelerate the innovation. Since then the Web site has been greatly improved and provides an excellent landing page for potential collaborators. I suspect you would be a very welcome contributor indeed. :)
Frank Ibarra says
I had suspected for a long time something like this was going on. Thanks for bringing it to the forefront. I will add much to my detriment that many of the features so carefully thought out such as the schemes and sounds manager have now been buggy as all get out for several versions. IN particular the voice aliases. The research it project while definetely an easy tool for new users has now become a crutch for some at time leading me to wonder if a FS dedicated web browser is on the future. I could say the same stagnation is happening with in the scripting language. Although a bunch of new, and very powerful functions have made it through in the last few version of the screen reader, the language is stuck by its own design in its own proprietary place unlike Window Eyes’.
Still, one way or another, Jaws for windows is still the leading screen reader in the world.
But with that being said, my question is, for how long?
Geoff Shang says
In case you do want to link to Talx (later renamed Talks), it’s here:
John Greer says
It’s good to see articles like this. It’s also not an easy thing to do, because we can easily feel bound by the world we are a part of. There is one bit of innovation the article missed though. The innovation isn’t all about what a screen reader can do, but what a screen reader can do for the people it serves. The one innovation that seems to get over looked over the past few years has been, making accessibility available to everyone, and not just a select few who can afford it. My hat goes off to you for writing this article.
Beatrice Sayban says
blessings to jaws and open book. Was able to work for 20 more years. All together, worked 38 and a half years as a medical typist. Open book helps me read my mail. Jaws and open book have given me a life with independence. Thanks so much for your expertise.
My name is Aaron Linson. I’m the director of podcasting and Sound Engineering at Fedora Outlier. We are looking for hero’s to come on the Delivering Access podcast and interview them about their lives. I would be greatly honored as a Fedora Outlier team member to have other people hear your story. My e-mail address is: [email address removed by moderator]. if your interested.
Jessica Arnold says
This is awesome! Personally, as far as iOS goes, I love VoiceOver, but all this is true. I agree. I’ll be sharing this.
Richard Wells says
Chris: The only needed revision in your account is the fact that GWMicro did a virtual buffer a full year before it was done at Henter-joyce and actually worked, believe it or not, in Internet Explorer 3.2 running on Windows 95. Speaking as a user today, System Access still blows JAWS, Window-eyes and NVDA out of the water on Windows screen access support in Windows.
GW Micro had something like a virtual buffer in Window-Eyes with an interface similar to what we did in JAWS 3.31, that is true. However, they used only MSAA to collect the data rather than sucking in the raw HTML at first and, later, walking the DOM after it was invented.
Our approach allowed JAWS to reach a score of more than 90% of the user agent guidelines, something that, prior to GW abandoning MSAA on the web and taking up the DOM strategy that we invented, could not do. In fact, GW, if my memory serves, never broke 60% of the UAG during my tenure at FS and I’ll bet they haven’t gotten much better since but I’ve no data to work with.
Years ago, a Canadian guy would publish a UAG scorecard at CSUN that compared various screen readers on the web. In the first year, JAWS lost to HPR something like 85% to 70%; in year two, we scored 80% while HPR remained at 85%; year three, we broke 90%, HPR didn’t move and GW and Dolphin never cracked 55%.
So, while you’re right that Window-Eyes did have something of a virtual buffer type concept before we did, it was, at best, incomplete. GW did get the basics down in that MSAA buffer but took years to make it actuallyusable.
Richard Wells says
What I meant to say also in the last post is that System Access blows the competition away in web support using Internet Explorer 10 and later on Windows.
shaun everiss says
I got your article from audiogames.net forums.
Yeah I wander where the fuck things went wrong.
What really pissed me with jaws is the fact all addons and such cost, and the suits.
I myself am a power user and also a fringe hacker.
The other issue with jaws I hated was the fact you payed a lot for the reaeder.
Also, the fact that just about ever organisation touts it as the best reader for the blind.
Its why probably fs is payed so much cash and why it continues to continue.
I payed up jaws to v6.0, but it started to bloat loads.
And no reader needs to get a licence for a pro version of the os like jaws does.
Worse, though not necessarily jaws related, is the fact it and other readers rely so much on intercepters.
Nvda does not and for just about all apps it doesn’t even need a curser.
True web and cloud bassed programs are more comman, but nvdas major advantage or inivation is it uses to the fullest everything that exists.
this is not just uia like everyone else in win8 and so on will use, or msaa or sapi, but the common windows libs.
This libs like the richedit control and the html dlls already exist.
The synth while robotic is cross platform to linux, and is good for what it is.
bar a few things like espeak brltty and liblousis all opensource projects 99% of it is writen in python script.
yes jaws did start the script language and win eyes and supernova which is the other reader I have for comercial apps that need more power, than nvda, actually do use lua script and some other things, nvda’s use of a standard python language as a script enables it to do a lot more things than jaws ever will.
In nvda you can run scripts for programs, but the scripts can themselves be internal programs themselves.
like a full ocr system using the google tesseract system, or a resource moniter or just about anything.
Some of these features do end up in the core, though there may be a slightly higher risk of malware infection the programs are checked by devs and others a lot and loads actually test and other things.
I suspect though that the reason that fs and other inovation has stopped is probably because there is no real need for anything more.
nvda does have a controler that can make nvda work with some apps but even so.
THe blind need something to access the computer.
this includes, some games, office ie mozilla apps or chrome or other brousing, notepad, and an email app.
bar a few differences that for the basic user will never change at least for the probable future.
There is no need to inovate because we have run out of ideas.
Our next stages will depend on what the mainstream companies do.
however I think unless we need to make a new visual system readable for us, there will not need to be any inovation unless someone can think of other things.
The issue with the fs suits is sadly not their fault fully.
Aparently the patent system in the us is screwed, and every company from samsung to apple is wripping at eachother’s throats like a pack of wild dogs.
It was not so long ago when publishers of books movies and music threatened to try to make it alegal for the blind to do anything due to copywrite apple and samsung had a battle like this.
so maybe all inovation is stagnating.
I predict that it will be down to the rebels, pirates and master system hackers like myself to make a difference.
Even with the large game companies I have seen a drop in development after all most of them are 1 man bands.
However there is continuing movement in the smaller darker reaches due to engines like bgt.
The fact is that inovation for the big guys may be almost over.
Its time for the users.
Sadly though, yunger people are forgetting some of the older generation’s steps.
the command line, braille, the fact thateverything can be replaced if broken or fixed by inserting a disk and reformatting.
If something breaks its chuck away rather than fix.
To be brootally honest we probably would need a world nuke war every fucking 30 years, and an echonomic crash every 20 to keep inovation going.
We are getting to comfortable and while I don’t mind that some days I wander why life can’t be more exciting.
The world seems to have lost its creativity.
I used to be in the end of the era 20 years back when I tried to get a job.
I had orgs, advisers, and everything.
Most of them burned out before they could find things lost my data, gave me broken equipment and late software, and other gutless things.
then expect to pay them cash.
put me to several sites for jobs, and lists which end up with nothing but my address being spammed, hacked and with nothing to show for it.
everything is now to by the book.
Lately people have been asking me to do it.
A bit of me thinks it is a good idea after all to be a fucking bum is really bad for the world.
However most of me feels why should I fucking bother!
Everyone fucked me round all the fucking day.
I tried my fucking best, it may be better to commit suiside than actually bother.
I may bother, but this is the last time.
As far as they care or as I can care they can all fuck of.
I am still quite angry at all this.
Sadly not many actually know or care for exactly what stuff should be.
the users and not some guy that takes the business and thinks they can handle it can’t do it right.
Businesses designed for the blind should be run by the blind.
A sighted person may be able to do things faster but is not expect to know what to do.
They are better than us and happily go in and handle it.
Sadly I fear that the stagnation, is happening to us to.
There are vary few of us that have the wish to think outside.
Or at least those that have come to me at all!
Of those, one of them has moved away from his field, another is dead, another has simply put his energies elsewhere.
The rest may get jobs in a limited number of fields but most stay at home being fucking bums like myself.
And I wander what the point is.
My life as it is is fine.
I still live at home.
But I have a good idea what will happen in the end.
What must happen in the end.
I will go to a home.
where i expect I wll do blindy things, lie in bed, get fat and die.
I don’t think right now that I can get out of the hole everyone seems to be stuck in.
What is more worrying is that most don’t give a fuck about the self made cage they are now in and are happy living their lives away.
And if this continues, in a hundred years or so it won’t even matter.
Fortunately its not all dead at least not for me.
I do spend a part of my time doing research for the local uni.
My boss, is from one of the older generations.
And like me one of the last of the free thinkers.
He is fead up with the world and doesn’t give a fuck about debating it with me either, asking me the questions that push my bounderies.
Unlike the rest of the sheep at least he has the sence to try and rattle the bars.
Its not all bad but then we seem to move slowly.
I think the next inovation will have to be a way to make the blind and other disabled people normal, because we have reached the end of this chapter in the world.
There are a few things left.
the cheap braille display.
Next I think we should have some blindy phone that does sms, and phone for those that just want that.
I know a lot use the touch interface but I still have an old semi working unit and to be honest symbian is not that bad for what I do.
I barely use the phone as it is.
I was born when dos was round and where things went happily on.
In the 26 years I have been using a computer I have seen the rise of the net, a couple echonomic crashes, and I have seen the slow decline of the world’s creative energies.
It was so slow you never thought about it.
Now its here!
Once the old guys die off there will not be any new ones.
Unless we try to go there.
And in another 30 years it will be to late for me.
in 30 years it will be time to go to the home where I wait my death.
Not sure what I will actually do, the fact my life is as free as it is is because of me staying at home.
I am concious of things like not being able to maintain a house or actually work as such.
and it worrys me a great deal that for at least now my own inovative energies are down the drainage system.
What is next I wander?
Ok, I can continue this life for at least another year or 2.
but there are some changes that could happen in the next 5 or so years.
It is likely to be the beginning of the end.
I may have the courage to try one more time.
Just one more time while I am stable and able to get round without much effort.
but thats probably it.
so yeah I feel your pain over inovation, been wandering about that for a long time.
Brenda Smith says
Wow Shaun it’s eerie how much I can understand and relate to so much of what you said…
I agree with you that there is virtually no innovation in the screen reader space. The same applies to the entire assistive technology space. Yes, we have seen some useful apps on mobile phones but there are so many problems that remain unsolved. Take remote access for instance. Yes, we have some solutions but they involve installing components on the computer that we want to access remotely. This is not always possible. Take nonstandard java script implementations of menus. Yes, it would be nice if standards are followed but as a customer, it is not something that is under my control. Finally, speech delivery is still linear. I use Dragon Naturally Speaking with J-Say and Jaws. Many quick navihgation commands require one to specify the number of units to move. E.G. “Move fordward 10 words.” Well, it is not easy to count when using speech and if I were to read ahead and count, what is the point? I am not sure where the problem is here. Oh of course, we continue to have long standing bugs etc. <grimace
Paul Topping says
Great post. Me and my company are only on the periphery of the screen reader world but I found your account fascinating all the same.
If there is a death of innovation in screen readers, one cause might be that mobile devices and the companies that create their s/w platforms have not opened their architecture to allow such innovation to flourish. On Windows, MSAA and other browser and app interfaces allowed screen readers to compete and that caused innovation. Google and Apple have not yet done this on their platforms and the so-called Web Platform (HTML5 and other W3C standards) have not created standards that would allow screen readers to live on those devices. On Windows screen readers made use of browsers’ plugin mechanisms to get at the DOM. Although these mechanisms were browser-specific, at least they existed. On mobile platforms, none of this seems to exist and that is a shame.
I am surprised that screen reader vendors and the W3C don’t do more to create public standard interfaces, that browser makers would be encouraged to support, to enable screen readers on mobile devices to exist. I will admit to having a small stake in this as my company makes math-to-speech/braille software and, therefore, would benefit from what I am suggesting here.
Joe Orozco says
So, what’s the next step? I keep hearing there’s no more innovation, and yet this seems to come from people who primarily work in or for the blindness field. The rest of us who chose to take a different route still find challenges in making government and private sector applications work with our technology. I would kill for innovations that would make my screen readers work better with the databases in my office. Just because the features no longer scream of bells and whistles don’t mean the innovation can’t take the shape of making every day tasks work more efficiently. That would not be just innovative. That would be pretty damn miraculous.
To Shaun, either you’re full of crap when it comes to your hacking prowess, or you’re allowing your talents go to waste. Either way it makes you a disappointment, because in the time it took you to write that response, you could have potentially helped another blind employee perform her job on equal footing.
I’m seriously grateful for the projects you took to Freedom Scientific that served as springboards for other companies. But, that celebration is short-lived if all you can offer us now is a depiction of the problem. Get off your ass and be our advocate again with your innovative thoughts and hacks. I’m tired of getting riled up by other people’s rhetoric. At the end of the day I am still coming home wishing the accessibility landscape was better than what it is. I don’t need to be reminded of how terrible the traditional assistive technology companies are. I need results, and you just might be one of the remaining few with the talent to deliver them.
Lisa Brooks says
Thanks for sharing your story. I am glad I bought my focus 40 used, and the last feature from jaws I have found the most useful is flexible web. I continue to use the software like most people drive around the car they’ve had for the last 4 years. I know what it does, what programs it works with well, and I can do all the things I need to do mostly. Perhaps this is why agencies continue to tout it as the best screen reader to use to get employed or make one independent for living skills justifications, because it works with familiar/mainstream applications. I like it when people walk in the door and can now say they have tried NVDA, or that they want a Mac. It shows initiative but somewhere along the way they get stuck or can’t figure out how to get the screen reader to do something, or they come for other core services like mobility and tech training is part of the whole package. Some counselors refuse to approve macs because they are not mainstream enough, because the majority of companies still use Windows. While I train people to get the most out of their access technology today, they are not provided with SMA’s, so 3 years from now when they are still in college, or sending out their resume’s, and their technology is now behind because the new version of something has come along and they can’t afford to upgrade if they don’t have rehab services, were we really doing the right thing and recommending Jaws? When I learned to use voice over, there was a learning curve and times I wondered if I should throw the thing out the window. But the frustration and the learning curve was short lived, and I didn’t have to pay extra cash for a screen reader or think about counting the cost for future upgrades. Voice over is relatively easy to teach if someone has the manual dexterity to perform the gestures and remember them. While jaws has basic reading commands, in order to get profficient and fast to compete in the work world of the sighted, there are specific commands that must be learned for reading in Excel, Word, Internet, and so on. Look at all the hours of training time that will now be needed with voice over versus Jaws. Its a mutually beneficial relationship between agency and company. Its just something to think about. Some agencies also get parts of the profits for their reccomendations, yet we are suppose to as tech trainers be neutral in what we recommend, and while I’ve tried my best to stay neutral in the back of my head run the voices of two separate people who quietly said recommend a certain screen reader whenever possible because it takes the longest to train. There is not just sickness in innovation, but in how things are done. Jaws has been my bread and butter, (do I make time to learn a new technology when the one I have works just fine), so I am loyal in a sense for that reason, but changing the screen reader culture is something that is not going to happen over night.
Zuhair Mahmoud says
I agree that innovation has stagnated in the AT sector as a whole, with a few exceptions. What I am having trouble with, however, is the claim that a PackMate BX 440 cost FS only $400, and returned a margin of $4600. This can’t possibly be right!
Prior to FS inventing what we then called a “braille stick,” braille cells cost between $25 and $40 each. At FS, we decided to take a new approach and, rather than using very expensive, hand built, European made cells, we started building them in China and in blocks of 20 or 40 cells. As this was a single part instead of 20 or 40 separate cells, it was both less far less expensive to manufacture and integrate with the housing. Thus, a 40 cell display from most companies (the FS block of braille cells is covered by a patent so their competitors can’t use a similar design) costs between $1000 and $1500 for the cells alone; FS, however, can build a 40 cell unit for much less, about $400 for a PAC Mate 440 back in 2004.
If you still have questions about any of my numbers, please feel free to ask and I’ll provide as best an explanation as I can. Remember, I was a vice president at FS, had access to the weekly financials and saw the margins on these products increase as we did a lot of things to cut manufacturing costs by finding new an lower cost ways to build these things.
If anyone tell you that it costs FS more than $400 to build a 40 cell braille display or notetaker, they are lying.
Monica Moen says
Chris, this is an excellent article. I remember the excitement of new JAWS releases in the early days, the new applications that got support each time. That has all stopped. Now they add features for sighted trainers like autoforms mode, or they add features I don’t need like the new settings manager.
Those of us who work need way more than email, Notepad, and a browser. We need full access to Windows and full access to *all* of Microsoft Office, not just Word, Excel, and Outlook. I missed out on a job promotion because Microsoft Access isn’t fully supported and Microsoft Project isn’t supported at all. When I asked about it, I was told blind people don’t need that level of access to Office projects.
There is still plenty of room for innovation if someone has the resources and the willingness to be creative.
Is this possibel? I don’t know. I do know they’re not trying though. The new features list is usually targeted at sighted trainers and newbie computer users. Power users co go hang.
Agreed Monica, totally agreed. And while I’m on the subject I think it’s totally batshit that application developers, at least for Windows and the web, can get zero support from at least FS when it comes to making their apps accessible, while there is no innovation to speak of on that end. I worked for FS for a while, and hated it whenever I received tech support calls from developers, or Microsoft people, people who wanted to make an app accessible but pretty much couldn’t, and there was no official developer information I could direct them to. I develop for the web, so my knowledge when it comes to development of Windows applications is out of date. But there are still some things I’m familiar with, and I did my best to help developers when they called. But given that the way screen readers interpret information is pretty much completely undocumented from the developers’ point of view, and given that FS expects developers to pay for a full license just to have minimal tech support for development, I can see why we have the impass we do when it comes to accessibility in a lot of cases.
David Isaacson says
Wonderful Article BTW Talks is with a k not x its website is http://www.nuance.com/for-individuals/by-solution/talks-zooms/index.htm hope that helps
Possibly the best FS related article I’ve ever read. Really. Well written. Here’s to the truth. :)
not important says
Of course the tools needed to do a job are going to be developed at a faster pace near the beginning of a product or class of products. If this doesn’t occur, the product won’t survive. So it is no surprise that the raw material for performing the tasks will come at a slower pace after the initial surge of development has occurred.
As far as what is occurring today, nvda is the best screen-reader in existence today and that gap will only widen. It is the best because being open source, anyone can improve it. It is updated everyday which no other screen-reder can match. Its next snapshot branch is stable and if a restart is needed it takes seconds so that is negligible. Claiming that system access works better in ie 10 than nvda, the better point would be what does system access do in ie 10 which nvda doesn’t do in any of the browsers it supports which are the latest nightly Firefox builds, opera 15 and all of the chrome variants, dragon, sr-iron, and more. It supports .It worked with windows 8 before any other screen-reader accept for narrator. You can install it easily anywhere. Other screen-reders work better so is the claim. If the response is immediate when pressing keys and it reads as fast as any other screen-reader then how are they better? Nvda can also be used with a mouse. You actually can submit a ticket and get action on that submission very quickly. It also works with Powerpoint. Look at the number of programs which have to be scripted in Jaws sometimes at considerable cost. it is also no use to talk about the latest version of a product and employment the company is using a version which is 4 versions back because they don’t want to pay for the upgrade. Sure more people are using the commercial screenreaders, not because nvda won’t perform the task as well but because that is what the agencies are trained in so that is what they teach.
not important says
Additionally of course it is a moot point when most of the world can’t afford the commercial screenreaders anyway.
Christopher Sims says
Hello Chris, and all who have taken the time to comment. While I realise that you are outside of FS now. I think that you are the kind of person who could develop some kind of remote access client that would allow any AT software to access the appropriate information with out the requirement of needing any software to be installed on the remote server. I have missed out on jobs just because of what the requirements are around giving Jaws, and other screen readers access to remote access connections such as Citrix. I should say, that I never lose hope. I concentrate my own energies on doing what I can to help other people, blind or sighted on their journeys through life.
Best article on FS ever.
Great post Chris, and, great responses by everyone. For the past 4 or 5 Jaws versions I’ve seen nothing of really useful nature added. In the old days, probably when you were still there Chris, when I encountered an issue with Jaws and a certain program, I could usually email or call FS and receive, if not a fix for the issue, a workaround. Then issue would then, in most cases, be fixed in an upcoming update. Fast forward to 2013 and Jaws 14! The feature FS seems to spend the most time on is Research It, a feature which I hardly use. I’m not knocking the feature, as I know many users like it, but, I’d much rather see FS fix problems that have been ongoing for the past 5 years. At work we use MS Access to track alternate format requests. I need to enter information sent by students that include the textbook title, author ISBN, and publisher. Most students put dashes in the ISBN number, but the field in the database doesn’t accept dashes. When I was using Jaws 9 or 10, I could copy and paste the ISBN into the appropriate field, arrow to the dashes in the ISBN, and delete the dashes. Starting with Jaws 11, I think, I could no longer do this. The cursor would not move in this edit field. So, I ended up having to paste the ISBN into notepad or Word, remove the dashes, and then copy and paste into Access. I contacted FS about the issue. It was elevated up the ladder. I wont’ mention to whom here. I was asked if I could send a copy of my database to FS so they could look at it. I took the time to make a copy of the database, remove any student information, and send it to FS, never to hear from them again. I tried several times to contact them afterward, but the person in question never bothered returning the call. Both NVDA and System Access worked in this edit field as expected, so, it’s not like the field is unusual or of a odd nature. We are moving to a new database this fall, so the point is mute, but, really FS?
I now use a Mac at home… have been doing so for the past 4 years, and I love it. At work I must use Windows, but, the day I retire, I’m not sure I’ll ever again purchase another Jaws SMA.
End of rant, and, thanks Chris for all your hard work and ideas while you were at FS! I do also wish to add, that if it were not for Jaws, I would not have been gainfully employed as I have been for the past 12 years, so, I am really grateful for the freedom and independence Jaws has given me.
This is a very interesting and thought-provoking post. I was a JAWS user for several years, having started out on JAWS for DOS and using a DECtalk external synth. It’s so interesting how all these things happen. I immediately fell in love with JAWS from the get-go. It seemed to do an excellent job at reading the computer screen, and I thought the features at the time made it a product not to miss. One feature which I particularly found intriguing was the multi-lingual support, and with every new version and update I anticipated more languages being added so that I could test them out. I now use NVDA and System Access, and I love both. I think what Serotek has done is fantastic, and I hope they continue long into the future. I have spent countless hours on SAMNet, marveling at all the great content that is available on there. Furthermore, it seems that Serotek folks are very supportive of people who use other companies’ products in addition to theirs, or in place of. That is something I truly never thought would happen. NVDA has also really taken off, and I really like what has been done with it. My final thought on this is that both SA and NVDA absolutely need to become embraced by state VR agencies, especially those with tight budgets such as the one here in the Land of Lincoln! Best of luck to you in the future. I only wish I could meet all these awesome assistive tech folks whose names are now all to familiar!
Personally I got rid of jaws back in early 2010 and have been using NVDA for the past 3 years now. And in early 2009 I played around a bit with grml linux and speakup and an early version of vinux then called vibuntu. In 2010 or so I really got into vinux. But I had to fight with vinux to make some hardware work right. Then in early 2013 I heard about sonar and the new vinux4. I played around with sonar13.04 and vinux4 which recently came out. It is so nice that microsoft windows is an option now, and not a requirement. Furthermore vinux4 and sonar13.04 and above are so easy to use. NVDA yes it works with openoffice to an extent, but Orca does a much better job. I am also impressed with the innovation of qt-at-spi. I am amazed at how fast Linux operating systems are growing compared to windows. And to tell you the truth between windows, mac, and a linux operating system? I would choose a good linux operating system like vinux4 or sonar over windows and mac. why? 1. A good Linux operating system or operating system built on the Linux Kernel can be installed without sighted help. 2. a good Linux system like vinux4 or sonar13.04 and above will bring new life to a 10 or so year old computer. 3. The screen reader commands are similar to those in NVDA. 4. Orca, too, is scriptable. 5. Due to how at-spi and qt-at-spi work, most apps just work right out of the box. at-spi is the accessibility framework that lets Orca interact with the OS to give information to the user qt-at-spi does the same thing but for qt apps. 5. My six-year-old son’s windows xp machine crashed due to a power outage. NVDA would not even start up. Could I have probably made an unattended install disk and fixed xp, reinstalling all the drivers and such? yes. But why do that? So I booted a live dvd of vinux4. tested all the hardware and everything seemed to work good. So I installed it. I installed adobe flash for online games and other things he likes to do since he is sighted. And he has been happy with it ever since. No problems at all. The computer runs 3 or 4 times faster with vinux on it than it did with windows. My next laptop wil only have vinux4 or sonar13 on it but I do need windows for audio games and other things so I’ll be using the terminal app to quickly install vmware player and install windows7 in a virtual machine for games and things. Orca works with espeak, svox-pico tts from google, festival, cepstral voices and voxin an eloquence-like synthesizer. And it picks up USB and bluetooth braille displays automatically just like the mac does. Oh, need a braille translator? don’t pay $600 for duxbury, just add the odt2braille extension and turn libreoffice into a full featured braille authoring tool for free. For tactile graphics and some other things you may need at least windows xp and the free quicktack in vmware player. Vinux4 and sonar13 operating systems will do nearly everything you need. Oh for you hackers out there there is a bug in orca when selecting text in firefox orca doesn’t read what is selected. If any of you guys could fix this I’d appreciate it, thanks. maybe for the new sonar 13.10 release? in october? The other great thing about vinux and sonar is you can get a laptop off ebay for $280 or so or an older windows vista laptop for $150 or so put vinux or sonar on it get rid of windows of course, get a bluetooth braille display add the braille extension for libreoffice and you have a great computer/notetaker for school. oh and that remote access you were talking about? a good linux operating system already has that no special stuff required. and it’s accessible. go into the terminal app and use ssh. ssh into someone else’s machine fix it then disconnect. in fact vinux4 has cfh cry for help and its free. another vinux user can get into your machine with your permission and fix it then disconnect. also works with sonar13 but you may have to add the vinux repositories to sonar the easiest way is with software center. I would recommend vinux over windows any day. my son loves it. With windows he hardly touched the computer. Now with vinux I have trouble getting him to shut it off at night. It also has its own antivirus software. and d-base the equivalent of ms-access is fully or mostly accessible. I haven’t played around with it. So please guys go support vinux and sonar and orca and at-spi and qt-at-spi. Between windows mac and vinux4 and sonar13 my favorite is vinux4 or sonar13 if you want some extra screen reader features not yet implemented into vinux4 but aught to come soon in update manager.
To the person who said that they got passed up for a job promotion because microsoft access wasn’t fully supported by their screenreader and was then told that blind people should not need to use tools this advanced… Are you freaking kidding me? I despise, absolutely despise, when assistive technology manufacturers dare to tell me what I do and do not need. Simply because I don’t have vision, that does not give you the right to decide what I do and do not require my computer to do, or to behave accordingly when I call you for technical support. Right now, for example, my blind employer uses Quickbooks to do the accounts for his small business because it is the industry standard and because that is the program that his accountant asks her clients to use. This man owns his own business, can independently fix computers and routinely goes up on customers’ roofs to install cable and Dish, but he can’t do his own books because his screen reader doesn’t support the program and the one that does work is not industry standard. Calling tech support resulted in basically the same scenario mentioned above. When, when, when did this become ok??? When did we begin to allow assistive technology to run our lives instead of being instrumental in ensuring, by personally calling every week if necessary, that it continue to be innovated to meet our needs? When did we begin to expect assistive technology not to innovate at a rate comparable to that of the mainstream technology and just accept that fact? And this is to say nothing about the people who couldn’t afford screen readers in the era before NVDA and System Access to go who are still fighting the effects of that loss today. For example one of my best friends, who despite being out of high school for years, has no plans to go to college anytime soon because he is basically computer illiterate. His parents couldn’t afford to buy him a computer and a screen reader, and his school refused to purchase one because they decided that a BrailleNote was sufficient for his needs. He’s still struggling to conceptualize how key parts of windows work, such as the desktop, and trying to learn how to type on a qwerty keyboard, to say nothing of learning the finer points of a screen reader. And he’s not the only person I know who is going through something like this. So many people are falling through the cracks in our current system, and I believe that at least part of that blame belongs at the doors of companies like these, who fail to innovate or even to consider that some of their users are trying to make lives for themselves outside of the blindness sector. The world is never going to stop and wait for our technology to catch up, and it shouldn’t have to. But I’m honestly really terrified of graduating college and being turned down for job after job after job because another person can do the work more quickly, or doesn’t have the same struggles with accessibility that I do. And I hope and pray to God that we, as a user base, will rally together and stop taking this stagnation for granted. If we don’t try to change these circumstances, no one else is going to! Its up to us to make sure that the future is better than the picture we have of it right now.
First I worked forBlazie Engineering and then when it was bought out, I worked for FS. I was told in person and by an email message, “don’t fix bugs, add features. Fixing bugs don’t sell products, adding features does.”
I still have the email message.
Actually I believe FS stopped debugging Jaws since a decade. Innovation requires some sort of a listening ear, fresh mind, etc etc. Jaws does not only lack true innovation, Jaws stopped supporting a wide range of professional applications like SPSS. FS seems never heard of oracle :). I’m not yet sure if notetaker manufacturers like FS and Baum are sincere enough to upgrade components reasonably? i.e. Pacmate is not yet 1gig ram! would they just sell the braille device and allow us use linux in stead of paying for windows for mobile? I believe much to be taken into consideration when looking from a critic view.
David F says
An interesting article. I am horrified that FS could charge so much money for a PacMate, a piece of junk technology if I ever saw one. I hated mine and all but gave it away to someone just to be rid of the thing. Disgraceful that they would make over $4600 from a population group who’s unemployment rate is so high. I guess unlike MR. Damory, Mr. Mozen, was not treated so well at FS and has left as he did from HumanWare–a trend perhaps. I wish I were as good with computers and software. I’d have the most efficient scopist job using either Case CATylist or Eclipse by now. BUt that stuff loses me. It must be such an interesting field if you are very good. Sorry about your RSI problems. That truly must hurt. Best to you in future.
Cris thank you for a very well written article. You really got me thinking man.
I and jfw are in a love relationship I use it from version 2 in windows 3.11. I loved version 3.2 because with a dolfin apollo 2 hardware synth, I could at last access my first language which is Greek.
There were times I had to stay behind in jaws versions cause I had no money. Some times I would find a copy from the university or the current job if there was one.
Jaws helped me finish my studies in software engineering in Brighton, England. It helped me compose my own music by using cakewalk sonar with the scripts from dancing dots. Now, dancing dots still inovates, trust me.
I consider myself a jaws power user. I never bothered with cirtification, but I can use mostly all the functions of the jaws scripting language, I can write and debug scripts, and I’m one of this people that actualy bother to use it:)
Reason I’m saying all this is in order to demonstrate how sad I was when I had to contact fs regarding a problem I had.
So I decided and purchased a braille display, a braille pen cause it was not very expensive and on top of that it’s usable with my iphone and there are times I use it as my note taker so I don’t want voice over speaking or clicks or anything, so I use it with braille only.
I looked for a jaws driver, to make a long story short, I would have to downgrade my jaws to use the old braille voyager driver, and no guaranty it would work.
I contacted the fanufacturors of both products to get a feel for the water.
Naturally the guys that produce the bp are more expert in hardware, so they can’t know how to write a jaws driver, that’s what my contact said.
From fs, I was told that the hardware company has to write the driver for jfw themselves, weather that’s true or not.
So I called back my bp guys and asked them weather I could write a jfw driver for them, free of charge. But, when I got back to fs, which had considered my case solved and I asked them to send me the driver specs… Guess what I got back?
A big nothing.
And that is how a big love ends, as I’m going not to pay for another sma ever again. Me and jfw are done, though I’ll forever be grateful for all that I’ve accomplished using it.
Demonstrate no inovation is one thing, but preventing another from doing something quite another thing. I’m sure that if I was able to do it and write that braille driver, a lot of people could benifit from that project, not to mention myself in the first place.
Thanks so much, Chris, for a great article, and thanks to everyone who has commented. I too am totally done with JAWS and am dismayed at the lack of innovation and the failure to fix bugs. It is totally unacceptable that FS can carry on treating customers with such contempt. (I don’t consider features such as Researchit to be useful or innovative in the slightest, and sadly, I feel this pattern has been happening for long enough, whilst the software – or bloatware, continues to be buggy and disgracefully overpriced.) Blindness agencies have been far too willing to push JAWS to the people they’re supposed to be serving. When I was in short-term employment from mid-2005 to early 2006, JAWS was purchased for me via our Workplace Modifications Scheme here in Australia, but I only opted for JAWS in the end because at that time the context-sensitive help was superior to WindowEyes, and I (mistakenly in hindsight) thought I’d be better off at least in so far as having support from a local dealer – funnily enough, our blindness agency here in Perth. I had also had problems with the computer in the office (running Windows XP Professional) crashing or freezing when I was trying out a demo of WindowEyes. (This, in hindsight, may well have had more to do with the operating system, but my colleagues were certainly puzzled, and GW Micro couldn’t deduce the source of the problem via our long-distance communication. I do remember there were blue screens involved, and I was having to restart to be working back to normal again, adding to the stress I was already under with trying to manage the work and make some informed decision about which screenreader I’d choose.) Well, when my fully licensed copy of JAWS finally arrived after a ridiculous delay, I was further disgusted to find that my attempts to contact Freedom Scientific for assistance regarding the software’s handling of checkboxes in Word documents resulted in nothing more than the pathetic automated replies acknowledging my message, despite me attaching a sample of the document we were using. (And as with so many occasions like this, the local dealer can’t help with this sort of query and ends up having to chase FS any way!) After my employment was over, I was able to continue using JAWS at home on my Windows XP Home machine, but I stopped at version 9.0.2169U when I got sick of the unstable, buggy behaviour and conflicts whenever I tried having two screenreaders on my machine. I was also absolutely outraged at FS’s lawsuit against GW Micro. Version 9 was the last one in my SMA, and I have no intention of purchasing any further “upgrade”. I have been using NVDA for about 3 or 4 years and, as of a few months ago, a Brailliant BI 40, funded by a local disability equipment grant here in Western Australia. Megan, I agree with you about the appalling attitude of assistive technology companies presuming what blind people should or shouldn’t need their computers to do, but I also strongly feel it’s high time mainstream workplaces and indeed mainstream technology manufacturers showed more innovation and flexibility too. Your employer should not be placed in a position where he has to rely on someone else for accessing the accounting package. He should be free to use the accounting package he finds accessible/user-friendly. I have no experience with accounting packages myself, but surely the accountant could look at more suitable arrangements? (Are they not, after all, supposed to be at the service of their clients?) Absolutely, assistive technology vendors need to lift their game too, but I would also say how about the makers of Quickbooks making their product fully accessible? I started learning to use a computer in 1992 (in the MS-DOS days):), and I only learned Windows very reluctantly and only stuck with it because of the prospect of being able to use the Internet. To this day, I’m astounded at how the blind community could find it acceptable for an operating system to still not be fully accessible, including the installation process. And the general population, astoundingly, puts up with this cumbersome, unfriendly and unstable product! Whilst not specifically blindness-related, I highly recommend an article which illustrates what the likes of Bill Gates get up to when they’re not making their operating system more riddled with ribbons instead of menus (and still failing to make the product accessible out of the box). The article is at: http://southweb.org/blog/monsanto-buys-blackwater-the-largest-mercenary-army-in-the-world/ Josh, I’m very intrigued and inspired reading about your switch to Linux. I certainly know of others in the blind community who are using it (and Vinux in particular), but my impression – at least when I last looked on the vinux site and asked other users, was that at least in the initial stages, it still required some fiddling or tweaking (and patience) in order to be up and running? (I’m not that tech-savvy and lasted about a week in an IT course.) :) Thanks again to all of you for your insights.
Hay Cris, and all of you boys and girls whom still have free thinking and creativity. I invite you to join the NVDA project. Your skills will be greatly welcomed. Noe one will put handcufs on your thots or ideas. Its time to fight back.
I have been debating on whether or not to post and I am finally taking the plunge. I lost my eyesight back in 2002 and I still consider myself a relative newbie to the AT field. Like Megan mentioned, I am going to be graduating from College and I am scared to death of not being able to find a job. My degree will be in Computer Information Systems with a specialization in Web Development and Administration. In quite a few of my classes so far I have struggled because of trying to get my Screen reader(I use JAWS and NVDA) to work with the tools needed to complete my assignments. When the tools worked, I was still unable to work as well as the other students. This was especially true when trying to use programs like Visual Studio or the Eclipse IDE’s for programming. I have been using JAWS since version 4.5.1 and the only features I use that have been added since then is the OCR and the text analyzer. Other than that features like research it seem to be more for fluff than anything else. I want to be able to go to NVDA full time but it is just not quite there yet. I do want to encourage those with the technical know how to use NVDA so they can help to make it better. One individual by the name of Paul Warner has created a couple of little programs, they cost about $5 each, that really help NVDA. They are called VMouse and VTurbo. If there is anyone using NVDA and have not checked these programs out I encourage you to. If anyone reads this, I thank you for reading my ramblings. :)
Deborah Armstrong says
One thing the iDevice community of blind users has going for it is applevis.com. We need a community site for Windows software, that would let us share what does and does not work with screen readers. And like their campaign of the month, we need to be able to put pressure on companies to make their software more accessible.
And tied in with that, the screen reader vendors need to write a simple set of guidelines a user can forward to a developer, so that developer knows exactly what to do to make their software work with a screen reader.
Today, the average user is caught between a developer blaming the screen reader and the screen reader blaming the developer for a lack of accessibility. Apple solved this problem by clearly documenting what an app developer needs to do to ensure his app works with VoiceOver on iOS.
FS, GW, Dolphin and Serotek need to pool resources and write such a guide. Then it’s up to us users to start demanding that software developers follow it. But the AT companies won’t do this without a clear marketing advantage. So how can we convince them that such a colaboration benefits them financially? I don’t know, but I hope someone else has a thought!
One thing I have been noticing is that most of the open-source software I download and attempt to use doesn’t work well with screen access. Even though I have some programming background, I have know idea, technically why one music player may work with JAWS and another one might not. But if I did know, or had a document that explained why, I could start by passing this knowledge on to the developers who write open-source software. If they write software for their own amusement, rather than to keep shareholders fat and happy, they are much more likely to make changes to improve a program’s accessibility.
But today, I can’t even tell an open-source project why their software fails to work with my screen reader. And until I, a user can do that, we can’t see a whole lot of software becoming any more accessible than it already is!
After reading about the $400 to $5000 ratio on PM, I stopped using jaws on principle last week. It disgusts me that FS is so greedy, and that they’re so suit happy! I haven’t been happy with their monopolizing for a while, but that passage in your blog just pushed me over the edge! I am now a full SA convert and will never renew my jaws SMA! Thank you for letting us know the truth!
frank perry says
This was a fantastic article to read. I can remember how I discovered screen readers and at the time I thought how innovative they were. For want of a better description I was a fully sighted person and completely ignorant of blindness related issues especially screen reading technology. Four years ago, I begag going from fully sighted to being classified by Australian doctors as being legally blind. So I was employed for insurance companies at the time doing investigations into genuine and not so genuine claims, but now I couldn’t drive, couldn’t do the physical leg work required for such a job. Even with the free perks the Australian health system has, I was facing high medical bills, my loss of most of my sight was completely unexpected, so it was hard to get cover for everything. And I wanted to keep working. I liked my employers, I liked my work but what was I going to do, and how was I going to do it? My employers and I sat around the conference room for 3 whole days, no I am not kidding you and than we began researching screen readers. If I could find a decent screen reader, I would be assigned to accounts and billing, if not, I was out of a job with little prospect of getting another job without further training, meaning very little money coming in and debt collectors knocking on my door demanding I give the bank my house to pay my medical bills. So at the time we were using windows. Microsoft narrator was hopeless. Jaw was way too expensive and not to mention the upgrades. Support for window eyes and system access in Australia was non existent. Zoom text and magic were ok but my eyes were getting tired ov all the the information they had to read. My employers weren’t exactly happy about it, but the answer was apple mac. The mac had zoom and voice over. I would have the best of both worlds. I could use my remaining sight and if the eyes got tired use voice over. So we got the apple mac with 10.6 and I remember thinkoing how briliant voice over was at the time. Sadly, no innovations have happened since and apple has had 2 upgrades of major significance.
Sam Jewell says
Deborah Armstrong suggests that the big players “need to pool resources and write such a guide. Then it’s up to us users to start demanding that software developers follow it. But the AT companies won’t do this without a clear marketing advantage.”
Mr Hofstader – I wonder to myself whether you could write such a guide by yourself, which we could all get behind and push developers to implement? You’re in a unique position having skills right now and no affiliation to a particular manufacturer, and this might help the industry a great deal. Just a thought…
Ben Watson says
Chris, good, thought provoking post. And thanks to everyone else for their comments. Mine are a little rambling. First, Jaws. I’ve used most versions since 3.7. With each successive version I’ve wondered why I upgraded. So last year I didn’t. I was in the midst of a move both in location and workload. Now, I wonder if I want to bother since I’m not using Windows 8. In fact, I’m wondering just what I’m going to do to keep being able to teach online.
Pac Mate. I use it almost every day but am wondering what my next step will be with this device. there is no indication that they are going to upgrade it. Oh, and the upgrade they made in 2007, as far as I’m concerned has been almost worthless as it continually reboots. I’ve had it reboot in the middle of sermons and Sunday School lessons. So again, am not sure what I will do or what I can afford to do in the next few years. By the way, I use my Pac Mate almost every day for reading teaching or something.
As far as innovation is concerned, I’m not sure we’re seeing a whole lot of innovation anywhere. Between government that prys into everything and business that doesn’t want to do anything we’re in pretty big trouble as a society. So my hats off to anyone who is innovating anything.
Hello Chriss, my name is Mayson. after reading your 2 articles about jaws, A friend of mine now can not deside on what screen reader to use. We both love jaws. but, what should we do now? is their a screen reader that will work best in colegge and or in Highschool?
I am using vinux4 fulltime now on an hp laptop. Vinux has come a long way since its inception in 2008. In fact I have to say it is much easier to use than windows, doesn’t crash, and everything I throw at it like my document scanner, barcode reader, and hard drives and usb flash drives just work out of the box. Vinux is so easy to use. Installing software and removing it is so much easier than doing it on windows. and with vmware player I can run windows xp great with just 2gigs of ram in this computer and it works great also so itunes still works with nvda under linux inside vmware.
Sky Mundell says
Hello Chris, great artical! I have to agree with almost everybody on the post. FS has not added any new features in jaws in recent years, nor have they made new apps accessible. I’ll give you guys an example. Upon receiving jaws 14, I installed it, and activated it. Then i tried it with some of the apps i have used successfully with Window-Eyes, and NVDA. one app was Windows live male. upon launching the program, I discovered that, while arrowing up and down, jaws only read the subject line, but not the who the messages is from. For example, it would say, test. Window-Eyes, and NVDA read everything perfect. For example, it would say, test, re, from Sky Mundell. JAWS just iddn’t give that information. I also can remember other apps not working with jaws in the past. For example, back in the jaws 5.0 days, I upgraded to msn 7, only to find that, it did not work with jaws 5. Window-Eyes 5.0 worked just fine. when jaws 7 came out, msn 7 worked with jaws, but I don’t see why they waited for 7 in order to support that program. This is just an example of how far behind they are. In late 2006, I started drifting over to Window-Eyes, after I bought a computer, only to find that I couldn’t run my licence of jaws on it, because it needed an aditional licence. To say the least I was disgusted to find out that I needed an aditional licence. I drifted over to Window-Eyes, and I use it. I still use jaws, again for the cakewalk sonar program, but these days I have drifted over to Reaper with ReaAccess. I will say that when I have delbt with fs’s tech support, I had positive results
As far as for windows, what screen reader can you recommend for a college setting? I saw a reply but it mostly had to do with Linux based systems and I’m curious as to what windows screen reader will do the job in a college setting. Thanks very much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Depends on what you want to do in college. In most cases NVDA will work fine. For some more advanced stuff you may need window-eyes. Orca is very good too. now to anser some other questions someone posted here.
Can i just download Ubuntu and Vinux from the internet?
yes you can. http://www.vinuxproject.org or just google vinux .
What do i have to do when i have a computer with windows on it?
you have to make your computer boot from the dvd drive if it does not do so already. on a dell the f12 key usually brings up a boot menu. on some desktops spacebar or enter will make it boot from the dvd drive. you will also need a app like burnaware for windows or brazero for vinux to burn the .iso file onto the disk correctly. brazero and burnaware make this process very easy.
Would you suggest removing Windows from my spare laptop and loading Vinux on it?
that depends. how much memory does your laptop have? if it has enough you could upon testing vinux to see if it works with all your hardware load windows xp in vmware player in a virtual machine.
How does the virtual machine work?
first you download and install vmware player. you download the vmware player file it has the extension of .bundle. and then you make it executable by pasting this command into a terminal.
sudo chmod +x filename.bundle
the filename is long so you can use tab to autocomplete it for you. and then you type
sudo means run this command as the administrator. so you follow the vmware installer. and then I find near the end orca crashes so I just turn off and on the computer with the power button. when vinux comes up talking again go into vmware player put in your windows disk make a new virtual machine tell it to install from the disk. it may ask for your product key. enter it. and vmware will install the windows operating system for you all by itself. then to run it arrow to it and press I think its alt p for play virtual machine. when it starts loading press control g to give the keyboard and mouse to windows. if you want to let the vm open if you got enough memory in the computer you can press the alt and control keys together go back to using the keyboard in vinux do something in vinux then switch back to xp with alt tab and then control g to give the keyboard and mouse back to windows. and that is how the virtual machines work.
I find this article a little too much self agrandizing for my taste. A lot of the innovations you supposedly thought up were already available through other sources like emacs/speak. COM interfaces were always there as a platform feature, so…not to discount anything you guys did at FS, but I found Jaws to be horribly buggy when I used it from 3.3 onward. Many instances of Jaws simply freezing/hanging which point to instability in the underlying architecture as an example.
Applying a document-centric view of a GUI works for those who come from a text mode background, but the world’s quickly moving away and into a very GUI/touch centric POV.
sir, your work to the screen reader world and for the blind people seems very important as you’ve created some features which has enhanced the accesibility to the web contents, excel worksheet, word documents and so on…but sir you’ve exempted to do some more innovative that you could do better for us….seriously FS CEO got a still mind?
Timothy Paulding says
Chris, You’re a bad ass. Keep it up.
Chriss I think that was an excellent post, particularly the bits regarding the production of the Pac mates, and the lack of fixing bugs in JAWS. However, I would like to say that GW having partnered with Microsoft has attempted to break a lot of the bariers. As for the long term use that will have, time will tell. I am the assistive technology trainer at a local community college whare I work, and my main objective is to test software for educational ADA compliance. We have to make sure that everyone not just blind people can access what the college offers. However, that is made very complicated by the Bring-your-own-device policy that we have. WIth the number of devices that are in the market, it isn’t just JAWS anymore. It might be window-eyes, it might be VOice over, it might be ANdroid’s talk back, and it might be invux or sonar, or whatever you call it. If the guidelines to not work with any of the formensioned situations, we can’t use it. Access not fully accessable? I know all about that, having taken an access course and having had to deal with that clunky piee of software. Sadly no screen reader seems to want to fix that issue. If someone wants to get with me off the site and help me dive in to Linux, I would be greatful. My SKype ID is KI4AUY. ALso, despite what gw has done, freedom does nothing. I am subscribed to the GW infolist, and there are many new users being added. All of that to say this: I believe that unless freedomscientific gets its act together, they are in grave danger of being pooled under by there own greed. I have not upgraded since JAWS 12, and I do not intend on it. I have had some of the same JAWS licensing issues, particularly on virtual machines, whare the hardware is non-existant. Of course, this seems to happen with GW micro as well, but at least they are always willing to give me a reset of my serial number no matter how many times I have to request it. Yes, I recommend Joing the NVDA list, or the vinux list. I have also used mac with VoiceOver, and I believe it works pretty well. There are issues they need to be resolved however. If anyone wants to reach me offsite, my e-mail is DGBOWLES@msn.com
Thanks, and have a blessed day
Sky Mundell says
Hi daryl, what si the name of the comunity college that you work at?
thanks for the look behind the sceens. I am a developer myself and have been a JAWS power user but now I am running on NVDA. While FS seems to print money without real inovations, it is really annoying that fundamental bugs have never been fixed. When JAWS crashes one has to kick away the error dialoges to start over again. This was the entrance von NVDA which helped with this task and pushes JAWS more and more aside. I agree that blind people leading a screenreader project will make a bitg difference. Sure other people can have good ideas as well, but they don’t have the frustration and need for the product itself. I blind CEO which has crashes when working with the own product will make that crash vanish quickly while a sigted one will never really notice.
Since NVDA is community driven and there is no big inovation it seems that there is no real need for that. Beside this many important things are in background such as adapting technologies like java etc. Obviously the current readers work well enough for most users – and only very few of them really know all features – they just want the thing to read what’s important for them.
One thing that is really missing in times of IA2 etc. ist the loss of a kind of offscreen model – to have all Texsts reassembled as they are placed on the screen.
also the PDAs for blind eople it would be nice if I didn’t have to translat documents in to text format etc
if was just a regular keyboard with internet and word etc I would behappy
it would b thinner than a laptop but moe reliable than say a braille note etc
I like how the braille note automatically saves though
that is pulsdata they’re on east cost so its hard to turn one in when it breaks
i’m not familiar with himms or braille sense but its similar and not a full comuter I know lots of blind people who don’t have email until they get to college or no browsing skills though they may have an iPhone
all the IT people should make products accessible (outlook has declined in accessability)
Laura R says
The JAWS screen reader is an appalling PoS. I have to use it to ensure documents are meeting ADA requirements. It frequently hangs, half of the words are mispronounced and garbled. I can see from looking at drivers, etc that the software had its last real update around 2006 and FS has done absolutely nothing to improve it since. The GUI looks like Windows 95. FS has a monopoly on the market and has no reason to spend money improving this pile of poo. Educational institutions and other enterprise users of the software are very slow to change so that helps to keep FS secure in its lock on the market. I wrote to Google and begged them to make their own version of it since Google’s voice recognition technology is light years ahead.
Sarah Blake LaRose says
Chris, I ran across this post while trying to troubleshoot some JAWS junk. Perhaps you will remember me from the old FS days. I want to thank you for the last opportunity you gave me to work with you at FS. I did not realize until much later how much it would offer to me–not because of anything it gave me in the way of tech opportunities; but ironically I had enough skills to be able to configure the braille table when I needed to see ancient language characters on my braille display while studying biblical languages in seminary. Other screen readers don’t allow for this kind of customization; and in that regard JAWS still leads. It made the difference in my career path, as I am now a Hebrew professor. If anyone had told me in 2003 that my life would turn out this way, I would have laughed and told them they were insane. I had a Hebrew Bible in boxes under my bed, and I was on the verge of giving it away. Thanks for all your hard and painful work, and for taking a chance on some of the rest of us.
Gary Campbell says
Very interesting article! I didn’t know you had left FS. Sorry to hear about your RSI and related issues. I’ve done a really poor job keeping in touch with people in FS after I left. This article was sent to me by my test lead. (I work (very!) part time at Lionbridge doing accessibility testing, mainly of HP printer software.) I’m, I guess, retired now :-), since I didn’t find full-time employment. I appreciate your efforts toward making things accessible!
I haven’t seen a PAC Mate since June 3, 2003 at about 8:40 AM. Interesting about the $400. Did that include labor? I know that the cost of producing a product is far greater than the cost of parts– and even parts and labor. Price goudging has something often voiced about AT pricing, but it’s interesting to hear it from your vantage point. Can you say what the actual profit was? I got a referbished M20 when my BNS2000 was taken by the people who robbed our house a few years back. They also took a Talking Time 1, but left a Toshiba laptop. (They also took some powder, I assume thinking it was drugs, that was a supplement for the cats. I hope they grew furr and a tail!) With the M20 getting old and being unsupported, I will soon have to figure out what I want to replace it with.
I quit upgrading JAWS at V10 when I had to face that my attempt at a scripting business wasn’t going anywhere and so couldn’t justify it as a business expense. I upgraded to JAWS 15 when XP became unsupported and I went to Windows 8.1.
Re NVDA: It’s interesting that since one of the testing standards we test against stipulates the use of an inexpensive AT solution, I’ve been testing with NVDA the past two projects. Before that it was always JAWS. I have NVDA installed on my laptop, and use it to figure out why JAWS locked up, among other things. One place where I have found NVDA lacking is getting information about text on the screen, like figuring out how text is positioned relative to other text, for example when trying to design a web page or position controls in a dialog. Also when trying to determine the color of text– e.g. detecting the active label in an Audacity label track, which is distinguished only (that I can find) by color. I suspect that is due to the lack of an off-screen model. There are other things, like position of text on the page in Word that I think could be done in NVDA but just haven’t yet. I’ve thought about adding that, but I don’t have Office right now and working on software accessibility– well software– is still viewed with a very low priority around here– no, I’d better not go there!
I have found the open source community more interested in accessibility than the mainstream. Still, when you are getting something for free, it’s harder to complain about its accessibility– although on the plus side you have the chance of changing that yourself, but that takes time, which as I’ve said, comes in far below how clean the front door looks!
Re: a guide for developers. I’ve tried to advise vendors about that, and try to tell what is wrong with stuff I’m testing, but since I’m just a tester, not a developer, they aren’t usually that interested in the info– it usually goes no farther than my notes file, along with a word that I’m taking too much time on it. I also have to tread carefully since I haven’t updated my knowledge since the days of MSAA, and is mostly theoretical. Providing technical suggestions that turn out to be off the mark is a good way to lose the attention of a developer if you have the opportunity to get it. I think there are documents out there about what is needed to make software accessible although I can’t think where right off the top of my head. There are certainly web accessibility guidelines, and I thought I used to refer people to software accessibility guidelines. I’ll have to dig through my ancient e-mails, hopefully some of them have been kept up to date!
Thanks, Josh, for the Vinux info. I tried a different live Linux distro with a screen reader, but it didn’t work with my sound card out of the box, and I didn’t have willing sighted help to read the screen to figure out if I could get it to work. I might try Vinux on my XP machine (Sony Vaio with 1.5GB memory and either a Realtech or AC97 sound card, I don’t remember). My wife would like to use that machine for e-mail. I’ve said I didn’t want XP on the Internet now– maybe to strict, but anything that isn’t “no” I’m afraid will just head down that slippery slope. She hates computers, and has trouble with Windows, interesting since she is a “visual learner”, and part of the reason given at the beginning for why things were switching to Windows was that it is so easy to use because it is visually intuitive and takes no training, or something like that! I have wondered if it would be confusing, especially since I’m not familiar with its visual environment, or if she would adapt to it as (not) easily as Windows. I haven’t wanted to replace XP on the machine, especially since I don’t have a Windows disk, only a system recovery disk, but running from a DVD would allow me to not replace XP on it.
Ahmed Farah says
as a user who is prooficient with Windows and the Mac with Voiceover I’m also interisted because as a current Voiceover user Voiceover can and is not difficult to learn but I will have to emprasizie this, while a huge number of users think that Voiceover on the Mac isn’t useable it certainly is, because as a student that goes to school I am an exclusive Voiceover user yes many of the same functions such as Ocr can be preformed using Voiceover. While the Mac’s interface is made up of elements such as toolbars tables a screenreader like Voiceover makes it so easy to have access the table yes, I already know that blind and visually impaired users of Windows users might think this concept is strange that is interaction yes for those who don’t know interaction is central to Voiceover which can be a bit strange. But the overall advntage to screenreader such as Voiceover is a step by step quick start training that will explain to you how to use Voiceover praied with some practice oportunites. In general the reason why Voiceover on the Mac is an amazing screenreader is because the fact that you get full independance out of the box never been able to reinstall an operating system on your own? well this dream now becomes a reality.
Ahmed Farah says
as an indvidual who enjoyed using the Jaws screenreader it has started to put me in the right direction and that is towared success because without all these features such as OCR and much more I would have not been able to equally access information that would be necessary to access.
I disagree that their should be a version of Jaws just for the Mac operating system the reason is because you guys are already charging double the price of a Mac with all the features built-in including a revolutionary screenreader.
On the other side I want to list the reasons why I chose Voiceover on the Mac rather than to stick with a Windows computer.
1. Voiceover Voiceover is more than a basic screenreader it describes reads aloud documents text of windows eE-mail messages and so much more.
2. On the down sides the Mac is a more expensive machine but as I haven’t written yet the inclusion of Voiceover on the OSX platform has one major drawback scince it’s so tightly intagrated into the Mac’s operating system this let’s it speaks in area’s where it would be inpossible for Windows screenreaders to speak.
2. Voiceover as I said earlier cannot be upgrated unless Apple upgrades OSX as a whole.
3. How do you preform your tasks like productivity than?
There are Apple native applications that come standard with the Mac that you can use Voiceover with.
The Mac can be used every thing from productivity to watching youtube videos reading Pdf documents and much more it’s an amazelying accessible because consider this I had the problem of out of the box my hopes were not so high for the Windows operating system because it did not solve the universal access on it’s side.
Just before I started crying I have heard about Apple’s revolutionary Voiceover screenreader that’s when I started to feel more comfortiable.
Jim Phillips says
I have low vision and am a long-time ZoomText user. I absolutely depend on it for my livelihood. I badly need help from people who read this page.
I’m presenting details, as I’m a physicist, not a computer scientist, and you shouldn’t trust my conclusions without examining them.
ZoomText seems to cause hangs in almost all apps it coexists with. At last, I think I understand why: it eats the GPU. On my ThinkPad laptop, Task Manager showed 80% GPU usage. Killing ZoomText makes this drop to 0. I complained to AI Squared (Vespero). They helped, but only a little. They provided a couple of parameter settings that cause ZoomText to ignore some events. ZoomText worked just as well, and GPU use dropped to 20-50%. ZoomText still causes hangs in other apps and needs to be killed and restarted 20-30 times/work day, but things were much improved.
Why not a faster GPU? I must use a laptop, as my job in high-tech sales requires about 25% travel. My employer (Zurich Instruments) would provide any reasonable accommodation. On advice of ZoomText tech support, I tried a Microsoft Surface Book 2 with GeForce GTX 1060. Working hard, I could not get ZoomText to use the GTX 1060, then ZoomText tech support admitted that ZoomText cannot use any dedicated GPU: it always uses onboard graphics. I tried getting other apps to use the GTX 1060, leaving the onboard graphics to ZoomText, but this has not helped. On the Surface, there are too many hangs to be useful. These are both in ZoomText itself and in other apps. The hangs disappear when ZoomText is killed.
I have not found another screen magnifier that works. I just tried iZoom, and it’s buggier than ZoomText, spraying text far outside the proper windows, not promising.
I am at my wits’ end. I want to work with dual 1x and 4x screens, for efficiency at my desk and for effective customer demos, but the laptops don’t have the GPU speed. I am limited to a single 4x screen.
Can anyone suggest:
* another screen magnifier?
* better laptop hardware?
* even an all-optical magnification? I need 4x, which is usually hard on field of view and also hard to aim well.
* something out of the box?
Thanks so much for any suggestions.