Merry Christmas

As it is Christmas, I want it to write something to thank all of my readers for our first year of successful blogging here at Blind Confidential.  Every day the increasing number of readers, those who make comments and the private e-mails I receive from others have, in many ways, been the best gift I received in all of 2006.

As this holiday reminds us to celebrate the birth of Jesus, I suggest that all BC readers spend some time today outside of the crass commercialism of the consumer vision of this holiday and reflect on the message Jesus gave us and the positive ways his words have affected our lives.  I suggest this to all readers no matter of belief system if you are a believer, an agnostic, an atheist, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Moslem, Zorro asked, Hindu, Protestant, Catholic, Druid or whatever Jesus’ message contains something for you.

Today, I contemplate the beautiful Beatitudes, The Sermon on the Mount and other wonderful parts of the Christian Bible.  I’m certain that if this old cynic can find great piece in these words that the messages truly universal and I recommend to everyone that they spend some time in reflection.

I wish all our readers, a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Currency Events

About a week ago I started feeling the symptoms of an influenza virus.  Since then, my wife has come down with a similar affliction.  In fact, a number of our friends have been struck down with this virus and we’re walking around with that vapid, NyQuil look on our faces.  My mind is blurry and everything around me seems to be moving very slowly.

I haven’t been able to spend much time paying attention to the news, in fact, paying attention to anything for too long seems far out of my reach and isn’t a skill I possess today.

I did learn, though, that Attorney General Al “Torture Memo” Gonzalez, head of our Injustice Department had ordered his minions to appeal the decision made by the courts that would have forced the U.S. Treasury to make our currency accessible.

So, for the second time in six months, the United States federal government stands apart from the rest of the world on issues involving disability.  First, the nation to which I pay taxes elected to opt out of the International Convention on Human Writes and People with Disabilities as John Bolton, presumably ordered by President Bush, refuse to sign the international treaty on people with disabilities.  Our government doesn’t believe that we deserve the same civil rights as afforded to us in the rest of the “free” world.

So, to add insult to injury, AG Gonzales elects to appeal the one good thing that’s happened for blind people this year.  The NFB case against Target was an excellent accomplishment this year but that battle was between blind people and the private sector — the Injustice Department is responsible for upholding the Constitution and in this case has chosen to ignore the equal protection under the laws section of the Bill of Rights as it applies to us blinks.

Nearly every other democracy in the world has accessible money.  To my knowledge, no nation outside of the US that claims to be a free and open society discriminates in this way but, then again, I don’t believe that any other democracy celebrates a genocidal maniac like Andrew Jackson on their currency either.
At least for not being rounded up and forced onto reservations.

I think it’s time for this country to wake up and recognize that people with disabilities have the right to be independent.  I admit that I rarely encounter a time when there isn’t somebody I trust around to identify my money for me.  What is missed, however, are the large number of jobs that require an employee to handle and sort currency.  Given an accessible terminal and accessible money a blink could work as a bank teller, in the counting rooms in Las Vegas and in lots of other cash-based jobs.

I recommend that BC readers write to the Justice Department expressing disgust with their decision to appeal this ruling.  On this matter, I respectfully disagree with my friends at the NFB and I strongly support my friends at ACB, I just wish we could all work together toward the common goals of achieving greater independence for us blinks and other people with disabilities

— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Radio, Radio

Yesterday evening, I received an e-mail from Mitch Perry, News Director at WMNF Radio (88.5 FM) in Tampa.  He informed me that one of my lifelong dreams, that of becoming a radio personality, had come true.  I will start my orientation early next month and, in February, I will join our community radio station and cover stories regarding discrimination and civil rights involving people with disabilities and the elderly.

This will probably lead to Blind Confidential having a bit more of a local Tampa Bay feel as, for the most part, I will be reporting on local issues.  I do expect that I will cover issues involving people with disabilities apropos to a national and international audience as WMNF  is a Pacifica and Free Speech Radio News affiliate.  The station is also connected with National Public Radio but I strongly doubt that npr will find my volunteer broadcast pieces will meet their standards.

Although I didn’t know about the community radio gig at the time I scheduled it, I will be interviewed on Main menu by Jeff Bishop today.  I don’t know when ACB will be running it but I very much look forward to discussing a variety of issues with the guy is smart and insightful as Jeff.

As I am entirely new to radio, I hope that some of my old friends like Jeff, Marlena and maybe Jonathan can call or write with a few tips.  I have taken a couple classes in journalism and understand that when reporting for the news I can’t enjoy the flexibility of bias and playing fast and loose with the facts as I can in a blog.  I don’t know how this may affect Blind Confidential — it may become more journalistic as I start thinking that way or, to contrast my radio work, it may become more gonzo and contain more fiction in the future.  In all probability the results will be somewhere in between as I will not be able to cover access technology issues on the radio as, frankly, few listeners would actually care.

So, look forward to me posting about my training and providing links to podcasts of my stories in the coming months.

— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Legalize It!

As I do every morning, I sat down with my coffee to read my morning email and, as is the case on many days, the majority of it was from Blind News.  One headline from, The Hindu, an English-language newspaper out of India caught my attention and I read it immediately.  The story, “Visually-impaired man driven to ganja smuggling,” brought a smile to my face.

I was happy to hear that the blind person got a ride and didn’t have to walk across the border to do is smuggling.  I couldn’t quite imagine a blink tapping his cane through the Himalayas, through the Khyber Pass and into Afghanistan to make a big score and then bringing it back into India on the back of a guide yak.

The article states that are friendly blind dope dealer, “Employs a person with ‘full vision’ for the purpose,” of running his business.  I’m always happy to hear about blind people finding employment in roles traditionally held by sighted people.  I’ve known of two blind hydroponic chronic growers here in Florida and, unfortunately, neither has any for sale right now.  

“Curious as it is, the story of poor Bhimrav Durge depicts the tragedy of present times. Despite complete impairment of vision, he allegedly indulged in smuggling of ganja while being astute enough to employ a person with full vision on a wage of INR. 50 excluding expenses.”  I have to give our blind friend here credit, so many blinks around the world are exploited by sighted people and here’s a blink paying a sightie for approximately 1 penny — the article does not say how much time a servant had to work for his half a rupee but, when you’re only paying .5 INR for anything, you’re getting a pretty good bargain.

“This visually challenged person’s calling is begging for alms in front of the local temple.”I grew interested when a fellow villager told me over a `puff’ about easy availability of ganja in Andhra Pradesh. I thought I can make small packs of the ganja and sell it for INR. 5 a piece,” even if this is only a single grammar may be enough just to make one joint, five rupees is approximately $.10 so our blind friend seems to provide a good product at an excellent price.

Unfortunately, it seems that his low cost, cite it employee was not entirely competent as the pair managed to get caught.  “According to Durge’s confession, he employed Raut to execute the caper. Both reached Jainoor mandal headquarters from where they purchased 10 kg of dry ganja for INR. 900. The duo also spent about INR. 850 during their two-day travel to reach the place. “I got the money from my savings of about INR. 3,500,” said Durge who has four children who assists him at the temple.”  Nonetheless, finding 2 kg of ganja for $18 demonstrates this individual is a shrewd businessman and, tragically, silly prohibitions of possession and sale of marijuana products are going to force him back into a life of begging — 1 which seems to involve his children as well.  Finally, a blind person reaches a senior position in an entrepreneurial capacity and the government forces him to return to taking handouts.  “Realizing the seriousness of his alleged crime he vowed to go back to his village and take up begging again.”

Marijuana, hashish, and the other derivative products from the hemp plant should be legalized globally.  Recreational and medicinal use of the substance is profoundly safer than alcohol and many pharmaceuticals.  Likelihood of addiction is low and the probability of one acting violently while on the drug is even lower.

— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Code Factory’s True Public Beta

Blind Confidential articles have focused an awful lot on various technology issues lately.  Both Sue and I have the flu so dictating is a relatively painful experience for me.  I’m also still struggling a bit with the skills required to dictate while also writing creatively.

Thus, Gonz has been fairly quiet lately although I think he and some of his New York friends are enjoying the holiday season, the great Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the windows at Barney’s and the other New York holiday festivities.  I’m fairly sure he’s doing something paranoid and is probably taking an ironic view of it all but, when I talked to him the other day, he said he was planning another trip to Florida and that he wanted to meet with Mr. Sidney greenbacks himself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about technology lately (spending a ton of time in Visual Studio will do this to a person) so, I’ve been writing a lot about technology.  The software that I’m making is designated for the mainstream market but because it uses principles of universal design we blinks can enjoy it too.

I received a press release, copied in its entirety below, about the upcoming Code Factory Mobile Speak public beta program and thought I should bring it to the attention of BC readers.  To my knowledge, this is the first time in assistive technology company has done a true “public” beta.  To run their new software all you need is a telephone that supports the appropriate platform and an Internet connection from which you can download the beta.  There’s no need to purchase a license until the final version is released.

This is how big companies like Microsoft handle beta programs.  Windows Vista, for instance, had 6 million beta testers none of whom had to pay for the software.  I’m happy to see this practice, common in the mainstream technology world make its way into the access technology community as well.

What follows is the Code Factory press release copied verbatim so if you have a problem with it called them and not me:

Mobile Speak V3.0: News and invitation

By Roselle Ambubuyog

Dear valued customers,

We are approaching the release of Mobile Speak Version 3.0 which includes the following features:

– Support for all currently-available Symbian Series 60 3rd edition phones
– Multilingual Braille support for a variety of popular Braille devices
– Support for the new generation of standard Series 60 applications

Now we bring you more exciting news! Code Factory believes that the best way to meet the needs of the blind and visually
impaired is to base our products on the rich feedback from the users themselves. With this in mind, we’re looking for users
with Symbian Series 60 3rd Edition phones to join our beta program and help us make Mobile Speak V3.0 even better before the
final release.

Testers will be able to use Mobile Speak for free throughout the beta cycle and may be eligible to receive free commercial
activation codes or second TTS licenses based on the quality of their contributions.

This is your opportunity to evaluate a working screen reader for Series 60 3rd Edition absolutely free of charge and
personally make sure that the features and support for applications most important to you are implemented in the final
release. Code Factory wants the best for its customers, which means not only a product with the fewest bugs and the most
useful features, but a product that is worth the money you intend to spend.

If you are interested in participating in the Mobile Speak Series 60 3rd Edition beta program, please email us at

and provide us with the following details:

1. Your full name.
2. Symbian Series 60 3rd Edition phone on which you want to test Mobile Speak.
3. The IMEI number of your phone found by pressing *#06# at the standby screen.
4. The firmware version on your phone found by pressing *#0000# at the standby screen.
5. Languages you want to test.
6. Email address you wish to subscribe to the beta list.

All data provided to Code Factory will not be sold, rented, or distributed to any third party, and all personal information
will be stored in a secure database managed only by authorized Code Factory employees.

We eagerly look forward to your contributions to the beta team and the best mobile phone screen reader for the blind and
visually impaired. Thank you for your continued support!

Best regards,
Code Factory

— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Peter Korn’s History of Access API

This past Thursday, long time accessibility advocate, Sun Microsystems Accessibility Architect and one of the smartest and most energetic people you’ll meet in the accessibility business, my friend Peter Korn, wrote an excellent history of accessibility API on his blog.  As Peter has been around this business more than twice as long as I have, he has a lot a terrific experience in this area as well as bearing the scars of many of the battles fought over this stuff.  In addition to the article I reposted by Aaron yesterday, I strongly feel that anybody interested in this topic read peters (link above) article on this matter as well.

It simply wouldn’t feel like reality if I didn’t have some areas of disagreement with Peter.  First off, I noted the he neglected to mention the work done by the ATIA AT/IT quote bits and bytes” working group in which he, Richard, I, Aaron and, very importantly, June Parrot as worked very hard to come up with a harmonized API.  While my involvement in that committee ended years ago, June, especially, served as the scribe and Mary Beth Jaynes, from Apple, served in the capacity that can only be described as somewhat between “den mother” and “referee.”  It’s unfortunate, however, that with AND MBJ’s great contributions Apple Computer seems largely left out by this party..

Next, comes the idea of the the vocabulary wars.  When I describe something using the description, “first generation access technology,” I referred to purely textual based interfaces some of which are still used by people in the GNU/Linux world and if you old timers who have a tattoo on one arm that says quote MOM” and on the other quote DOS.”  When I refer to second-generation access technology, I describe programs that running graphical environments like Windows or gnome.  My idea of third-generation is one which breaks the boundaries a unidimensional, single vocabulary token at a time interfaces, and moves into a multidimensional audio space.

Peter writes, “20 years ago – in 1986 with the inLARGE screen magnifier from Berkeley Systems – the assistive technology industry developed a set of reverse engineering
techniques to determine what desktops and software applications were doing. With the information gleaned from this hackery, these assistive technologies
provided an alternate user interface for people with a variety of disabilities. These techniques in accessing the graphical user interface were part of
a 2nd generation of access – the first generation being access to text-based systems like DOS, C/PM, and Apple II, and the 3rd generation being Accessibility
APIs (you might find my
IDEAS presentation in 2004
a good background on this evolution).”  On further reflection, I agree that peters use of such terminology is correct and I will henceforth refer to my multimodal and multidimensional work as G4.

Otherwise, I find I agree with Peter entirely and I really hope that this new API takes off.

[I have a nasty cold and I dictated this post so please be kind and don’t beat me up about peculiar homophones and other mistakes that Drag in might make while listening to a sick old  fucker like me.]

I’m happy to hear that this new interface is entirely open source and I truly hope that some Macintosh hackers ( are you listening Gabe?  )  And will bring this system over to help make MBJs dream come true.

— end

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

IBM Announces New Accessibility API

The debate between “screen scraping” and “accessibility API” seems to have been won by the proponents of the API model.  Sun and Microsoft have done excellent jobs with the gnome Accessibility API and UIA respectively and now IBM gets in with an interesting entry that may win the day.

In the article pasted below, copied verbatim from Blind News, Aaron Leventhal, one of the real heroes of AOL and most recently IBM accessibility projects, describes the new API in detail.  I haven’t read all of the supporting information but this one looks like a winner at first glance.

I still believe that a lot of attention needs to be paid to accessibility as regards context and do not know if this provides such a facility but, alas, it is a major step forward from MSAA that won’t require a total rewrite of the accessibility portions of a program.

Aaron’s article:

IBM and the Free Standards Group (FSG), today announced IBM’s donation
Of a new accessibility API, called IAccessible2, to the Free Standards

** Why a new API?

The need for the development of this new accessibility API was clear:
1) Crucial features added: the first generation Windows accessibility
API, called MSAA or IAccessible, lacked crucial features, such as
Support for the caret and selection, accessible relations, rich text
editing, multiple actions and many other features necessary for quality
Support in assistive technologies.
2) Accessibility efforts preserved: an evolutionary path was needed for
Applications which already had MSAA (IAccessible) support, to support
these new features. Rather than throw away the MSAA support that
applications already had, it was considered less expensive for both
applications and assistive technologies to grow new solutions on top of
today’s code.
3) Harmonized with other platforms: an API was needed that did not
require separate accessibility implementations for each platform. The
amount of different code between the ATK/AT-SPI implementations for UNIX
accessibility, and IAccessible2 implementations will be minimized, thus
saving resources.

This API draft was developed with consultation from a number of groups,
including assistive technology vendors, application developers from
Mozilla, developers working on ODF accessibility, and others.

** What is IAccessible2?

With the new API, an assistive technology will be able to QueryInterface
from an IAccessible*, to IAccessible2*, and to any other supported

The IAccessible2 interface itself collects important ATK features from
other areas, as well some completely new methods and features. These
tend to be methods that you may need on any object. For the most part,
features were added either to bring Windows capabilities up to the level
of ATK/AT-SPI, or in order to support the features of ARIA (previously
known of DHTML accessibility). For more information on ARIA, see the
links at the end of this email.

There are also specialized interfaces which are used only on objects
with the given capabilities of that interface. These interfaces
generally have a very close equivalent under ATK.  In the following list
of interface matchups, ATK interfaces are prefaced with “Atk” and
IAccessible2 are prefaced with “IAccessible”:

AtkText ~= IAccessibleText
AtkEditableText ~= IAccessibleEditableText
AtkHyperText ~= IAccessibleHyperText
AtkHyperlink ~= IAccessibleHyperlink
AtkImage ~= IAccessibleImage
AtkTable  ~= IAccessibleTable
AtkAction ~= IAccessibleAction
AtkValue ~= IAccessibleValue
AtkRelation ~= IAccessibleRelation

That should give a rough idea that what we’re doing is expanding MSAA
while matching ATK/AT-SPI to a very helpful degree. For more detail than
that, please see the draft interfaces, available here:

** What are some benefits of IAccessible2 for application developers?

1) Support advanced features while preserving investment in MSAA
2) True support for editing: new events and methods to expose selection
changes, caret movement, text changes and text formatting will help with
features such as rich text editing and “select and say” in Dragon
Naturally Speaking. These features will also remove the need for screen
reader hacks to find the caret and selection. Currently, Windows screen
readers must replace the video driver on the system and look for screen
draws of vertical blinking lines.
3) Maximize code reuse: for example, Mozilla has in already moved most
of the ATK/AT-SPI support code out of the Linux-only files into a
cross-platform area of the code. The code still supports ATK, but it is
now also ready to support the IAccessible2 interfaces once they are
dropped into the codebase.
4) Support AJAX applications: IAccessible2 has object attributes which
will alow browsers such as Firefox to expose any author-supplied ARIA
hints to help make live regions of a web page accessible. In general
there are a number of features for the delivery of advanced ARIA
features, such as extensible roles, relations and actions.

** What are some benefits of IAccessible2 for assistive technology

1) Preserve investment in MSAA: because IAccessible2 is
backwards-compatible with MSAA, the current support of Windows screen
readers and other assistive technologies can continue to work on
applications that add IAccessible2 support. However, the newer
IAccessible2 capabilities will also be exposed, and thus newer assistive
technologies will be able to take advantage of them.
2) Enable more powerful features in more places, such as rich text
editing and features such as “select and say” in Dragon Naturally
Speaking, and sensible support for powerful widgets in rich internet
applications, in browsers that support ARIA through IAccessible2.
3) Simplify maintenance: over the long term, IAccessible2 is a rich API
that will simplify screen reader maintenance. For one thing, it reduces
the need for interference with the low level drivers on end user systems.

** Where can I learn more about IAccessible2?

1) FSG IAccessible2 Home Page:
2) IBM Announcement on IAccessible2:
3) Showing the Accessibility Way: IBM Contributes Project Missouri to
the Free Standards Group by Andy Updegrove:

4) IBM project aims to help blind use ODF applications – InfoWorld:
5) IAccessible2 announcement in Japanese:

Where can I learn more about ARIA and accessibility for rich internet
1) Roadmap for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA Roadmap):
2) Roles for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA Roles):
3) States and Properties Module for Accessible Rich Internet
Applications (ARIA States and Properties):
4) Mozilla ARIA documentation:

Where do I learn more about ATK, AT-SPI and UNIX/Linux accessibility in

This is an exciting time. A number of people worked very hard on this
API, and as the press release indicates, a number of organizations have
come out to declare support.

Feedback and questions are of course welcome.

Thank you,

Aaron Leventhal
IBM web accessibility architect


About a million years ago, when I worked for Turning Point Software, we had a lawyer named Andy Updagrove.  I wonder if he is the same one mentioned in this article?

— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Blind Bargain Site

As virtually everyone in and around the AT business has written, it is hard to find bargains on items important to us blinks.  In the Fred’s Head Companion, Michael delivers a very good set of items in an article I read via Blind News.

My own opinion is that prices will drop as the market grows and we, in the blindness biz, manage to find more off-the-shelf hardware with which to work.  For instance, the MSS example I’ve been writing about lately is far cheaper than a BrailleNote and has many more features.  Leveraging the mainstream will be the key to our economics in the future.

Michael starts by saying, “There are lots of sites that track the lowest prices for computers, music, electronics and TV’s. It’s often hard to find who has the best deal for a talking watch or an accessible cell phone.”  This is true and, sadly, the AT industry, with giant margins probably does what it can to avoid too much price comparison.  I will add, however, that one gets what they pay for.  If you shop at Wal-mart, you can expect mostly self service; go to Saks or Nordstrom’s and a salesperson kisses your butt while you pay triple for the same item.  In AT, if you want full service, training, local technical support, etc. you will pay extra, otherwise, buy from a catalogue if you don’t think you’ll need this kind of service and get the Wal-Mart treatment. features deals, coupons, bargains, and the lowest prices for blindness-related items, whether they are designed for the blind or just happen to work for us. They won’t post all of the deals, just the lowest prices by reputable merchants,” continues Michael’s article.  I visited and I must say I’m really impressed.  As FHC states, it’s not just stuff designed for us blinks but, rather, all kinds of great bargains from the mainstream, furthering my argument for technology transfer, that are really impressive.

An example of a great bargain that we blinks can enjoy but is far out of the ghetto from Blind Bargains, “Linksys Phone Adapter for Vonage for $93 Profit has a Linksys 2-port phone adapter for $52. Pay via Google Checkout to drop the price to $32. Then, sign up for new Vonage phone service and use
A $125 mail-in rebate to gain $93 profit. Vonage is a broadband phone company that charges $24.95/month for unlimited calling. Rebate ends December 31.”  So, while this doesn’t exclude our sighted brethren, it is a real sweet deal for people on a fixed income.  

Of course, one needs to continue shopping around as Blind Bargains has advertised, “Western Digital Passport Portable 2.5″ 160GB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive for $115.56 shipped. has lowered its price on the Western Digital Passport Portable 160GB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive for $135.56. Pay via Google Checkout, and the price
Falls to $115.56. With free shipping, this is $8 lower than our last mention and the lowest price we could find for a 2.5″ drive of this capacity.”  Maybe I don’t know much about hard disks but I just bought a Western Digital at Circuit City that holds 250 GB for $99 but mine may be slower or bigger or something.

FHC concludes, “Note: The Blindness Auction Gateway is a part of this site, allowing you to search for blindness-related items on Ebay.”  This is yet another cool feature of the Blind Bargains site.

Overall, I think this site is really cool.  Give it a try if you plan on buying me a Christmas present (contact information below).


Recently, I’ve been talking a lot about MSS.  I have, however, been talking about a version that is not available to the general public.  I don’t know the CF schedule for release but I’d bet that the version I’m using will be out by ATIA.

— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Loyalty? Who Needs It?

In our culture, many people speak of the virtue of loyalty.  We hear radio stories about soldiers who oppose the war in Iraq but returned to the desert to fight beside their band of Brothers.  When loyal employees of corporations retire we give them gold watches and often invite them back as consultants.  In the United States, it is our presumed duty to be loyal to God, family, country and, in our corporate culture, to our employers.

Once upon a time, corporations were also expected to return said loyalty to their employees.  Sadly, corporate human resources are today, more often than not, treated like office equipment – they are beloved until they are worn out at which point they are discarded.  This holds true for the access technology industry as well as any other and, while I was an executive in this industry I readily admit that I behaved with the goals of the corporation above those of my fellow employees and of the users who purchase the products I made..  To make matters worse, I have perpetuated certain myths about the AT industry in the articles I’ve written on BC and, hence, I am a lying liar just like the rest of the greedy fuckers in corporate America.

For this past behavior, I apologize.  I deeply regret choosing the side of corporate greed over virtues like loyalty and honesty and promise to avoid doing so in the future.  I ask my readers’ forgiveness for these indiscretions.

Last week, I learned of an AT dealer who had been selling products from the same manufacturer for something on the order of ¼ of her life losing her distribution contract for said products.  Only a few years earlier, she had received a ridiculously large and heavy trophy for being the top seller in the eastern third of the nation for the company who now felt they no longer needed her services.  She was dismissed without warning and without a stated reason.

This woman, someone whom I know more by reputation than by contact, is blind and has an intimate understanding of the products she sells.  In New England, blind people have come to rely upon her and her great staff for service, training, installations and all sorts of other activities that assist them in using what can be very complex products.  She is the consumate professional and, after well over a decade of service, deserved far better than the, “Good bye and thanks for all the fish,” that she received.

I have started as a portal for open source AT projects and Adlib Technology, a company you will be hearing much more about in the coming months, to dedicate my time and energy to products built under the principles of universal design.  As I often repeat, we do not make software for blind people – we are blind people who make software for everyone.

I intentionally set up Adlib in a fashion that makes it impossible for me, the CEO and Grand Poobah, to have too much power.  I can break ties on the executive committee level but, mostly we are designed to build consensus and function as a group.  My management metaphor is to defer to the expert and, on many days, that is our 20 year old hacker and not our 53 year old CFO.  Age and experience matter less than good ideas and implimentation strategies.  Adlib Technology and are not about me, they are about the team and the community they serve.

In the coming weeks, I will be writing a number of articles with the intent of dispelling the myths of the AT industry, many of which I have perpetuated while in the biz and have continued to do so in this blog.  In all honesty, I have tried to wrap the bullshit in language that made it sound like the lies that is but, alas, without a lot of insider knowledge, many people would assume that my stories are true.  I apologize for this too and promise not to do it in the future.


My colleague in blogging, Ranger, proprietor of the Ranger Station blog (link above) wrote an excellent comment about the open source article I wrote on Sunday.  I wanted to point out a few small things about it:

I never said that altruism was the driving force behind the open source screen readers; in fact, if it was, I don’t think it would be making such excellent progress as we see in LSR and ORCA.  Section 508 motivates these projects, as it did VoiceOver from Apple, but, no matter the motivation, good screen readers available as part of the OS distribution is a good thing.

Ranger also reminded me about the GW lease to own program.  I neglected to mention it and, in all honesty, I had forgotten it existed.  Ranger is correct that this is an excellent, low cost way of test driving a product outside of the product line of the biggest game in town.

— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Open Source Screen Readers?

A few years ago, a handful of Stanford University Computer Scientists and professors from their business school worked together on a paper discussing the relative security of free and open source systems versus security in proprietary software systems.  They concluded that GNU/Linux servers were considerably more secure than those from Microsoft, Apple, Sun Microsystems and Others That Use Proprietary Software.  The Paper Proffered the Notion That Open Source Software Had Fewer Quality Problems Because There Were Literally Tens of Millions of Programmers with Access to the Source Code, Hence, an Enormous Number of Programmers Were Available to Fix the Bugs in the Open Source Programs.  At the Same Time, Though, Few Open Source and Free Software Products Have Become Popular among the Average Users As Microsoft and Apple Provide Much More Friendly Interfaces to Application Level Software.

There Has Been a Flurry of Activity in the Free and Open Source Communities for Making Software That Is Accessible to People with Disabilities.  As I Wrote the Other Day, along with a Handful of Partners, I Have Launched to Serve As a Portal to Open Source and Free Access Technology Programs.  The Question Arises, Though, if the Open Source Community Cannot Provide Interfaces That People without Disabilities Find Desirable will We Be Able to Succeed in doing so for Our Community?  I Feel That the Answer to This Question Is, Probably.

The Source of My Optimism for Open Source Access Technology Comes from the Same Theoretical Basis for the Explanation As to Why the GNU/Linux Systems Are Able to Provide Greater Security Than Solaris and Other Proprietary Systems.  Having Worked at Henter-Joyce and Freedom Scientific and Remaining Active on Mailing Lists Populated by Blind Computer Users, I Can Attest to the Great Expectations That Our Community Places up on the Developers of Software We Use.  Sometimes, the Criticism can be so Strong and Feel like Such Terrible Hostility That Some Programmers Will Shy Away from Listening.  In Most of the Cases That I’ve Observed, However, People Who Make Access Technology, Especially the Open-Source and JAWS Script Hackers, Listened to the Suggestions from the Community and Work Their Asses off to Implement the Features Requested.

On the Gnome Desktop, There Are Currently Two Open Source Screen Reader Projects Underway.  LSR from IBM and ORCA from Sun Microsystems.  The Non-Visual Desktop Application (NVDA), an Open Source Solution Written in Python, Has Recently Been Released for the Windows Operating System.  There Are Also Quite a Number of Free and Open Source Screen Reader like Programs for the GNU/Linux Text based Console Systems.  I Have yet to Use Any of These, so My Opinions about Them Are Informed Entirely by Other People.

JAWS Scripts, However, Probably Represent the Largest Body of Open-Source Access Technology in Existence Today.  People like Brian Hartgen, Doug Lee, Jim Snow Barger, Jamal Nazrui and Far Too Many Others for Me to Be Able to Remember Them All Right Now, Extend JAWS and Provides Support for Applications That Freedom Scientific Chose Not to Make an Investment in.  In Some of These Cases, the Scripts Developed by People in the Community Provide Access to Essential Programs Required by Many of Us to Do Our Jobs.  These Free and Open Source Script Sets Get Updated and Have Features Added Far More Frequently Than Organization As Large As Freedom Scientific Would Be Capable of Doing.  Without Some of These Open Source Scripts, I Could Not Do My Job and I Expect There Are others out There in Similar Situations.

Thus, I BELIEVE THAT THE JAWS Script Example Can Be Applied to a Free and Open Source Screen Reader for the Windows Platform.  NVDA Has Just Been released so the Jury Is still out on Whether or Not the Community Will Embrace It or Not It (My Single Complaint with NVDA Is That It Is Written in Python, a Language with Strict Indentation Rules That I Am Uncertain about How Well a Blind Person Can Interact).  Other Than That, Though, It Looks like a Pretty Good Start.

To Expand the Possibilities of Mainstream Operating Environments and Open Source Screen Readers, Though, I Recommend That Microsoft Released Narrator for Vista and Apple Release Voiceover As Open Source in the Same Manner That IBM and Sun Have Done with LS Are and ORCA.  With These Tools in Hand the Blind Programming Community and Its Friends Will Have a Solid Launching Point on Which to Build a Tremendous Level of Support for the Programs We Use on a Daily Basis.  Having Access to the Source Code Will Also Give Those of Us Interested in Exploring New User Interface Paradigms a Solid Framework from Which We Can Work.

Will Open Source Screen Readers hurt the Current Access Technology Companies?  They Will Certainly Put a Dent into the Software Income but, If a Blind Person Can Save a Thousand Dollars by Getting a Free Screen Reader They Might Turn around and Purchase a Braille Display, an Embosser or Some Other Cool Gadget.  Meanwhile, to Survive, Programs like JAWS, Window-Eyes and the Others Will Have to Provide a Compelling Reason for a User to Spend Their Hard-Earned Money to Buy a Screen Reader If a Credible One Is Available for Free.  I Believe This Will Certainly Fuel Innovation and the Net Effect Will Be That We All Benefit.

— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential