Thinking About Accessibility

By Will Pearson


[Editor’s Note:  Will sent me the following in an email.  I thought it interesting enough to put up as a blog post.  Other than a few grammatical repairs I handled, this post is entirely by the soon to be Doctor Pearson.]


I’ve been doing some thinking following on from the discussions around whether commercial or open source AT is better.  One thought that I came up with

is quite interesting.  If you set the goal to be the situation where someone can just pick something up and use it without anyone having to do any work

to enable that person to use that thing then we’re kind of going about things the wrong way at the moment.  The way we think about accessibility is wrong,

the way we achieve accessibility is wrong, and largely the people who are responsible for accessibility are doing the wrong things to achieve it.


You can think of commercial AT vendors and accessibility consultancies as consumers of accessibility problems.  They take accessibility problems and turn

them into cash for themselves.  They do this by providing solutions to those accessibility problems; either solutions to end users in the case of AT vendors

or solutions to people who produce things in the case of accessibility consultancies.  So, both AT vendors and accessibility consultancies need accessibility

problems to exist in order to make money and stay in business. 


I think this need for accessibility problems to exist has led to us thinking about accessibility in the wrong way.  Accessibility is seen as making a particular

product or feature accessible; I think this is a fundamental mistake but one that suits the AT vendors and accessibility consultancies quite well.


If problems are only solved within a particular context, say

a particular software package, then they can go and solve the same problem across multiple contexts making money each time they solve that problem. 


The alternative to a contextual way of thinking is a context independent one.  Instead of solving a problem in a particular context, say a particular software

package, you create a generalisable solution that solves the problem regardless of use case.  This general solution can then be used to solve all

instances of that problem instead of just solving that problem within a specific area.  This is better for the users but worse for AT vendors and accessibility

Consultancies as it gives them less opportunities to make money. 


This need for a context independent solution means that the solution needs to be placed in something that spans different contexts.  It can’t be placed

in a particular piece of software as that’s just a single context and instead needs to be placed in assistive technologies that operate across different

pieces of software.  So, I believe that asking application and web developers to make things accessible is wrong and that we should instead be asking AT

Vendors to make things accessible using generalisable solutions if we want to have the most things accessible. 





While I agree with Will’s statements, I also believe that the generic solutions he proposes may be the “Holy Grail” of screen reading.  So many applications out there require some bit diddling to get them to speak properly but, unlike Will, I’m not too strong in artificial intelligence or notions like synthesized vision so I’ll defer to his expertise on this matter.



When I get the chance, I’ll write full length pieces about two newly introduced technologies to the world of people with vision impairment.  The first is the User Centric Licensing scheme available in the recent releases of MSS and MSP from Code Factory.  I would like all software vendors to move to such a solution.  Second, the Victor Reader Stream from Humanware is really fricking cool.


Will’s note came as an html email, I did a Select All, Copy and pasted it into Word.  For no reason apparent to me, after pasting the text, a whole lot of hard line breaks showed up in Word making its grammar checker think that it had a lot of sentence fragments and letters that it thought should be capitalized.  Does anyone know how to keep this from happening in the future as I hate fixing such one line at a time in an editor.


Finally, if you, like me, use a lot of batteries (in my case, Olympus DS 50, my Sony 4 track cassette player and a few other odds and ends, the new Duracell rechargeable are not just better for the environment, they charge really quickly and, if you have two sets you should enjoy thousands of hours of use before they fade away.  As mine still work without having been replaced, I cannot speak to their life cycle but the fast recharges and long use periods make them really nice.


— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

My Bored Dog

Last March, Susan (my lovely wife) and X-Celerator, the guide dog in the family, took a trip to Boston for a family issue.  Up there X-Celerator performed his guiding duties with near perfection.


When, later the same month, we went to Manhattan for business purposes, the X-Dude strutted around like he owned the place.  He weaved between pedestrians, stopped perfectly at every intersection and performed incredibly well.



When we spent a month in the Boston area, the X-Dog was as happy as I’ve ever seen him.  Up there, he performed some very complex behaviors in places so chaotic that healthy adults have trouble finding their way around.


When we got back to St. Petersburg and our walks went from having an actual purpose to simply exercising,  the X-Man seems to understand that our departure point and our destination were, in fact, the same place, he took to walking more slowly, sniffing more than usual and acting really bored.


On Wednesday, we arrived in SouthBeach, the southern end of Miami Beach.  This is one of the coolest neighborhoods in the country; it is filled with the young, the hip, Euro-trash, fashion vampires and a lot of relatively wealthy old guys who want to look at the beautiful women or the men depending upon their preference.  In SouthBeach, all of the women are beautiful and the men are even prettier.


Like Boston, Manhattan and Cambridge, X-Celerator guides me with near complete attention.  In these places, when I give him the “forward” command, it means: “Avoid these 150 pedestrians about half of whom are looking where they are going; look out for the idiot on the Bicycle; ignore the people eating at tables outside and, by the way, find the next intersection. 


At home in St. Petersburg, the same command means, walk down this mostly desolate street and find the next curb.  I understand why he feels bored and acts much more slowly back home as, I, a human who cannot drive a car, spend my time working, reading and pretty much feeling bored during the off-hours.  The X-Guy is a really smart animal who, like a person, gets bored with doing the same routine every day. 


So, any advice on how to capture the interest of a big yellow Labrador is welcome.


— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Various Thoughts on a Sunny Monday

Today, I have no specific topic but will write about a bunch of different things.


JAWS 9.0


I read on Rick’s BlindGeekZone blog that JAWS 9.0 would release today as a final build.  I want to congratulate the team at FS for putting out a release that works far better than its immediate predecessors and, excepting the Vista Speech Recognition feature, JAWS 9.0 generally works much better in the applications I use most often which makes my life a bit easier.  If you use Word a lot, the price of the SMA is worth it just for improvements there alone. 


I think that FS also did a terrific job of addressing and prioritizing bugs posted by users during the beta cycle.  The result seems to be the most stable JAWS in years.  I’ve been living with 9.0 as my primary screen reader since the first public beta release and have found that most times things crashed on my computers that it had nothing to do with JAWS which is a major step forward.


Writing Projects


I try to avoid using too many cliches in my writing.  When I received my job offer from HJ, I was enrolled in a creative writing program at HarvardUniversity (it is the college closest to our Cambridge home) and learned quite a few things.  If Ted and Jerry hadn’t decided to hire me, I’d probably have a low paying job teaching English somewhere right now instead of being a high priced technology consultant with more work than I can handle.


I get my creative outlet through writing for this blog and I am currently collaborating with some friends on two bits of long form gonzo writing.  The first book, “Hanging Out at 322,” based in the apartment in which a bunch of my old gang lived during the punk rock era with a number of fictional characters tossed in, brings the reader through the party that started in 1977 and continued until autumn 1983.  With two authors, using the names Boris Throbaum (me) and Gwen Camelot (my writing partner) we plan on alternating between our perceptions of events (real and fictional) from that era.


On my other writing project my partner is also a woman.  The working title is, “Groping through Life: The Tactile Method for Checking Out the opposite Sex,” This one has a blindness theme and comes from a male and female perspective.  We truly hope to lower the bar for sensibility and morality in books regarding people with disabilities by a notable amount.  We would like to find gay and lesbian contributors who would like to join the project.




Because I often write about AT issues in this blog, I have a number of google news alerts set up to keep me informed of happenings around the biz.  It comes as no surprise that Freedom Scientific generates the most traffic as, holding the largest market share, they have the most users, hence, the most criticism and praise posted to blogs and other web sites.  In second place, though, comes the traffic generated by my alert on the text: Window-Eyes.


I suppose that google alerts ignores the hyphen in Window-Eyes so most of the email generated has nothing to do with the GW screen reader but, rather, comes from web sites and blogs dedicated to people’s writing projects.  While taking classes at Harvard, we would get a pile of criticism and recommendations for replacements if we used a cliché outside of a bit of dialogue.


I had no idea, though, just how many of the mediocre writers using the English language also include the word “window” followed by “eyes” in some piece of truly bad prose.


The general usage that comes in the google alerts tends towards, “she stared out of the window eyes filled with tears,” or “he looked through the car window eyes straining to see her drive away,” or “she stuck her head out of the window eyes wide and focused on Roger as he approached.”  I could include dozens more examples but these certainly provide enough to make my point.


I do not consider myself to be an especially good writer but my standards compare my work to serious professionals and, on occasion, to true masters like Faulkner, Hemmingway, Naipaul, Morrison and even Gwen, my partner on the punk book. 


For all arts, I ask the question of people who identify themselves as pick one or more: artist, writer, poet, singer, musician, dancer, performer, actor, etc. how they earn their living.  If it is through their art, I accept that they are artists; if it’s by waitressing, bartending, cleaning houses or any of the other jobs that people who claimed to be artists actually do to pay the bills; they are bartenders, waitresses, etc. and not actual artists.  The great jazz saxophone player, George Coleman, once said in an interview, “you can’t call yourself a musician until you can feed yourself with your horn,” I add pen, brush, dancing and so on.


I, therefore, according to my own rules, cannot call myself a writer as I make software for a living.  Hence, I am a software engineer and manager thereof.  If a whole lot of things fall exactly right and a 1 in probably more than a million chance occurs and one of our book projects makes actual money, I could then promote myself to part time writer and, in the extremely improbable case in which I can actually pay my bills through creative writing, I can then call myself an author but I doubt that this event will ever happen.


All real artists I know spend some to many hours daily working on their craft.  John Coltrane, likely the greatest saxophone player ever, spent 15 hours or more per day practicing.  Every professional writer I know spends a few hours per day writing in their diary if they have no major project going on.  Dancers, except when injured, dance daily; poets constantly compose; composers spend their hours listening to music and performance artists do whatever it is that they do which probably involves large doses of illicit drugs.  Very few people with a day job can also dedicate the time and energy required to become a full time artist.


Breadth of Screen Reader Features Versus Price of the Software


The other day, I had a phone call with a blind friend and fellow AT expert.  I, here in BC, had made an argument for free and open source access technology.  One of the specific reasons for this regards the price of AT versus mainstream hardware and software.  With Nick Negroponte and Intel working on $100-200 laptops for kids around the world, it will remain impossible for blind children in poor nations to enjoy access to these machines if screen readers sell for more than a few dollars and free and open source solutions also provide answers to obscure languages and installations in high security facilities.


My friend countered with his belief that he didn’t care if screen readers cost $5000 per license if they supported at least 90% of the applications out there.  He made the assumption that, at best, current Windows screen readers provide accessibility to about 10% of Windows applications.  I think this number is a bit higher for expert users who are comfortable poking around with JAWS or Mouse cursors but he’s probably pretty accurate for the beginner to average user.  I would also assert that, excepting other AT products and their own interfaces, no screen reader provides 100% functionality in more than 1% of mainstream applications either out-of-the-box or with scripts or configurations.


The basis for my buddy’s point comes from the thesis that access to more applications means access to better educational opportunities and to better jobs for people with vision impairment.  The most popular screen readers focus their energies on the software that most people need to use in their jobs.  I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t use MS Office at work if they work in a windows shop.  Web browsers get a lot of attention as well and I think we can accept that a browser is a requisite for any computer user today.  What from there though?


My friend suggests that ERP software is widely deployed in workplaces and should, therefore, be supported by screen readers.  This brings us back to the chicken and egg question of who is responsible, the screen reader vendor or the ISV, to make such software accessible?  Looking back on my time at FS, I recall doing a number of conference calls with ERP vendors who wanted their 508 VPAT to look good but neither wanted to change their own software to comply with any sort of standard or API nor did they want to pay FS to struggle through the process of square pegging their software into some level of accessibility. 


A screen reader company needs to determine if investing in such projects is in the best interest of their investors and users.  If the screen reader company does the work and raises its price to $5000 will purchasing such software be considered “reasonable” by a hiring company?  What if one screen reader vendor went all out and supported 90% of professional applications only to lose their state contracts to an AT vendor who releases a cheaper and much less functional alternative.


Keep in mind, the people making the purchasing decisions rarely also use the AT products.  If they see SAP running with JAWS or Window-Eyes and talking a little, they will assume it’s accessible.  Thus, if an AT sales person shows up with a $5000 solution that really sings with programs like Great Plains and SAP and other shows up with a $600 solution that talks well enough to handle a presentation given by one sighted person to another which will the company purchase?


I find that one of the worst things a screen reader vendor or mainstream software company can do is claim accessibility for some software and not really deliver it fully.  This creates the worst situation of all as some blind person gets hired based upon claims from the AT and mainstream companies and then gets sent home a couple of weeks later because they can not access the features they need to do their jobs.


So, in my opinion, price really matters and, especially in poor countries, it matters a lot.  I can see a future in which a high priced Cadillac solution co-exists with a free open source (or collection thereof) solution that is used by the masses.


Accessibility to News Sites


Recently, I created a google news account for myself.  It provides links to lots of interesting news stories on something around 5000 different web sites around the world.  Unfortunately, many of these sites fall far from “accessible” and even further from “usable.”


I find that, on many of these pages, it can take ten minutes or more to find the actual story.  The headline appears in a half dozen places but is then followed immediately by links to crap that I don’t want to look at.  I am not speaking to advertisements but, rather, everything one may want to do with an article in the Boston Globe or Fox News.  I don’t want to print the article, nor do I want to send it to a friend or even subscribe to their RSS feed – I want to read the article, that’s all. 


Using JAWS’ Quick Keys, sometimes the “h” will actually bring me to a header above the text of the story, a lot of times it just brings me to more crap about home delivery of the Omaha Gazette.  Using the “n” Quick Key tends to bring me to a sentence regarding more crap about the publisher and its web site and not the article itself.  Often, when I finally find the article, I read about two sentences and am then presented with a bunch of links, none of which are to the rest of the story and, frequently, this garbage is followed by Flash content that reads, “Button 1 Button 2 End Flash.”  I then continue to poke around the page until I find the article again.


I’m told that the aria standard will address a lot of these issues and that screen reader vendors are currently working with some of the people on the standards committee to prepare their software in time for a future release.  Of course, this also means that the bazillions of web pages out there need to comply with said standard which I do not think will happen anytime soon.


I’m sure Will Pearson will jump in here with an idea but it occurs to me that it might be possible to scrunch a web page into its component parts where a list of links can be opened with a keystroke but would only appear as a single line in a virtual buffer.  Links embedded in a paragraph could stay there as, in this situation, it is less likely that a large number of links would be bunched together.


With this faux semantic compression, a complex web site (, CNN, Fox Sports) may be simpler for a screen reader user to navigate and, if nothing else, it will be a lot less noisy.


I do not know if any research has been done in this area, I suspect so though as web accessibility has been a major topic of discussion for about a decade now.  If I find the time, I’ll do a search on and see if I can find anything.  Of course, Will will probably beat me to the search so I may not need to do one.


— End


Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Anonymous Comments

Since shortly after I started this blog, I have maintained the policy of allowing almost all comments, anonymous or otherwise, to pass through the filter of moderation.  Once, a pretty long time ago, I refused to post a message that was both anonymous and extraordinarily critical of Freedom Scientific as I felt some of the comments in it made little actual sense and, Because it was posted anonymously, I didn’t want to accept responsibility for its contents.  When FS was acquired by WAFRA, I censored all posts that, for racial or religious reasons, attacked FS or its new owners for their Arabic roots.  Finally, I’ve censored a few comments that were obvious sales pitches for various AT products as this blog is no place for advertisements.


The other day, after posting my “Pissing in the Wind” article, I received a lot of comments both privately and posted to the blog.  One anonymous post raises some issues about me and this blog to which I will respond.  First, I wish the poster had the guts to use a real name rather than hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet.  Anyone making such statements and such accusations should be prepared to face the music but this obvious wimp chose to cloak his identity and avoid debate, thus, in my opinion, probably has little or no evidence for certain allegations he makes.


Anonymous writes, “Thus, I am going to offer you some free advice to help you get your life back on track.”  I definitely listen to advice from people willing to identify themselves but why should I think lessons from a person who won’t even identify himself would be at all useful to me?  The cloaking strategy seems to imply that this person may actually want to provide completely useless advice to me or post lies to the public without being questioned.


The initial bit of advice, “First, delete this stupid blog. Every potential employer is going to Google your name, read your blog, and move on to the next candidate. We all have our private demons; your blog shows that you are overrun with them.”  This sentence has a number of issues I would like to address.  Specifically, if employers, especially around the blindness biz, have such a bad opinion of me resulting from my discussing substance abuse and mental illness on this blog, how come I currently have more work than I can handle?  How come I have a waiting list for my consulting services and a handful of full time job offers on the table if my blog scares potential employers away?  I assure you that virtually all of the people for whom I work today and those who have offered employment and contract gigs in the future are regular Blind Confidential readers?


Next, prior to September 2006, about nine months into the history of this blog, drugs and other substance related ideas only appeared in the fictional stories written under the pseudonym, Gonz Blinko.  People who actually thought that Gonz and his life were non-fiction needs more psychiatric help than even me.  I wrote those stories as an exercise in writing entertaining stories in the gonzo journalism style first published by the late, great Hunter S. Thompson.


In September 2006, I wrote an entry entitled, “August 2005,” about an episode of my manic depression that landed me in a psychiatric hospital for a few days.  About a year after the episode had passed, I went out to lunch with my good friend Ted Henter.  Part of our lunchtime conversation included stories of substance abuse and mental illness.  Ted told me that I am far from alone in the community of blind people with such issues but many others actually think they are isolated within a world governed by their demons.  Ted suggested I write as honestly and in depth about my battles with these problems as possible so others may know they can have someone out in the world who shares issues regarding blindness mixed with depression, mania and substance abuse.  In the 14 months or so since writing that article and others like it, I have received dozens of private emails from people asking for help and, in some of those cases, I think I actually helped some of these strangers along their path to recovery.


Finally, on this first bit of advice, I will add that all of the chatter about substance abuse (not the use of prescription medications) comes from memories of my fairly distant past.  I have not had a sip of alcohol or even a pop of any illicit drug in more than ten and a half years.  I’ve been through a lot of good and bad during that period but haven’t picked up a drink or found a blast of heroin to self medicate myself.  I spend a fair amount of time helping other alcoholics and drug addicts find sobriety and such efforts are among the happiest parts of my life.


The next bit of advice that anonymous provides includes, “Although I will say that your description of your departure does not match what is now common knowledge in the industry – namely, that you were asked to resign because you had been stealing from the company,” comes completely from left field.  I talk to a lot of people throughout the industry almost every day and hear lots of rumors about myself.  None, however, have included theft or even an accusation thereof.  I will happily join any FS official on a live podcast to recite my entire personnel file, including my resignation agreement and letters I’ve received from their attorneys and discuss all of them in a live forum and anyone who hears the entire collection of paperwork will hear nothing about stealing from the company but will hear lots of stuff about my very poor performance, my mental illness and my increasingly suicidal tendencies.


In the “Pissing in the Wind” article the other day, I stated without condition that FS had every right to fire me.  I had grown into a manic state in which my ego grew too large to be contained in a corporate environment.  I signed up for every conference I could find so I could enjoy the applause after my presentation.  I neglected my department and Eric Damery did a lot to help manage my team.  By the time FS sent me home, I was a certifiable basket case.


As, today, I have more work than I know what to do with, I certainly do not need to court companies who got a bad impression from this blog.  For two of the gigs on which I am currently working, I did not do any courting, they called me and offered jobs.  One even went as far as asking me to name my price and then matched it.  If anything, BC has helped my floundering career.


So, if you plan on being a prick, please put your name on your comments so I can know who the meat heads are and avoid them in the future.


— End


Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

JAWS 9 in Vista and more on Free Open Source AT

My new, Vista based desktop came back from the repair shop as good as new.  The first thing I did on it was to install the JAWS 9.0 public beta with its updates.  I can only describe the experience as a bit underwhelming.  Unlike my first series of articles about Vista, I did not do anything even approaching an objective comparison between JAWS, Window-Eyes and System Access but, instead, just lived with JAWS for a week or so.


As I wrote in my first article about the JAWS 9.0 beta, I think it is very good and even excellent in some places.  As I also wrote in that article, JAWS 9.0 is light on new features and even lighter on innovation.  JAWS works better in parts of Vista where it worked poorly or not at all in the past, a definite improvement. 


Because of my repetitive stress injuries, though, I had to switch to System Access to write this blog entry because JAWS, in its out-of-the-box form, still does not support Vista speech recognition, an important aspect of the Vista OS distribution.  JAWS also doesn’t work terribly well in the WindowsMediaCenter software that came with my HP.  Both of these areas work pretty nicely with System Access.


For the most part, though, JAWS 9.0 is a big step up from 8.xx as its performance has increased noticeably and there are fewer really nagging bugs.


As I have written before, I do not think that it is fair that the most expensive screen reader on the market relies on volunteers to create the configurations and scripts for applications that fall outside the 90% rule.  On the other side of the coin, though, JAWS does work out-of-the-box with more programs and, unlike their competition, the ability to modify JAWS outside of FS puts a lot of power in the hands of the more nerdly inclined.


The three (or is it four) projects I currently work on will release their entire software open source under GPL.  Matt Campbell wrote an excellent comment the other day when I did an item on free (as in freedom with a lower case “f”) software.  Matt makes some very valid points but I think the following items express a number of reasons why AT should move to an open source model:


·         While Matt suggests that a free screen reader will only increase the sense of entitlement that many blinks already have, I counter with: if a sighted person goes to Best Buy, purchases a new PC, brings it home, attaches various cables and such, turns it on and after the OS installation and registration nonsense completes, do they feel “especially entitled” because they can use it without plunking down $500 for System Access or more for its competitors?  Following the civil rights argument, would a restaurant be considered integrated if they let minorities in but charged an extra $10 for every $3-4 item on the menu when serving black customers?  Why then should blinks have to pay all the extra cash just to use what our sighted friends get for free?

·         Screen readers, by their very nature, cause a lot of security problems (orca and VoiceOver may not as I haven’t explored how they gather data beyond the API.  At an ATIA sponsored AT/IT meeting a number of years ago, Madelyn Bryant McIntyre (then Director of MS ATG) and I brought a number of these issues to the table.

·        If a screen reader can function at the Windows login prompt, it can alsostore your user name and password and send it off to some nefarious hacker to use later.  Not coincidentally, a screen reader can read what you type into a user name and password field on a web page which may store your credit card information.  An open source solution can give organizations (government agencies and such) a way to look at the code and ensure that no one built in a back door.

·        In the past (this may no longer be true) some screen readers found ways to hack the Windows kernel without causing the OS to pop up a warning message.  This not only created a security hole, it prevented the user of being warned about it.

·             Many people in developing countries believe the best screen reader available is JAWS in its 40 minute mode.  Thus, no matter their task, they save their work and reboot every forty minutes.  To people who only earn 500 dollars per month in technology jobs, purchasing a full featured screen reader is out of the question.

·             Unless the software is open source, adding languages not determined to be profitable by the vendors of proprietary screen readers, is impossible.  Just take a look at the rather long lists of languages supported by orca and NVDA.


There are far more reasons for doing things under GPL, open source and leveraging massive collaboration than I can think of at this moment.  I will renew my JAWS SMA and continue to use it while working on GPL solutions for myself and the rest of our community to use.


— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Pissing in the Wind

Perhaps the nastiest trigger for my seriously dark bouts with depression come as a result of my relationship with FS/HJ.  I spent six years there and got chucked out on my ass three years ago.  In all honesty, if I was CEO of the company at the time and the VP/Software Engineering performed as poorly as I did during my last few months there, I’d have fired him too.  Getting rid of me was the best thing for the business at the time.


In the three years that followed, though, they have threatened me with legal action quite a few times and, for all intents and purposes, kept me from working in the blindness business for two of those years. 


In my final months at FS, I didn’t behave poorly just because I felt like it; I did so because I was in constant pain.  My hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders and neck hurt so badly that I had to either deal with the cognitive distraction caused by the injuries or take serious pain medication and deal with trying to manage an important department with a serious codeine buzz.  My mood (amplified by large doses of steroids injected directly into my spine) caused me to bounce between bursts of tears and manic episodes  greater than would be caused by an 8 ball of cocaine.


During this period, I knew things were wrong and went to my boss and told him that I was “overwhelmed.”  He said, “vice presidents don’t get overwhelmed…” and, twice, walked out of my office without offering any help.  On the Monday of Thanksgiving week, 2004, he brought me into his office and sent me home to go onto our private disability insurance program and return when I got better.  FS posted my job for replacement on the day after Thanksgiving weekend so I get the feeling they didn’t plan to have me back.  In January 2005, FS force me to resign or face a lawsuit.  I chose resignation as I thought that would be the easier path but a few years of harassment later, I wish I had done otherwise.


As Thanksgiving is approaching again, I feel like I am falling back into the darkest part of my personal abyss.  My repetitive motion injuries are flaring up badly and I’m back on serious pain killers and I’m no where nearly as productive as I would hope which may mean I need to cut down on my hours and, hence, my income.  More than money, I am deeply committed to the notion of getting free AT software to people who need it and, with my left arm in really bad shape, I don’t know how productive I can be as I’m back in the state of being distracted by pain or impaired by pain killers.


Also, while my mood this morning definitely falls on the depressed side of my bi-polar bear symptoms, I suppose some of the mania and hypercharged ego still shines through.  I seem to believe that either my pain or the effect of my pain killers knocking me out of commission will cause a major set back for the entire population of blinks who use computers.  As FS has shown in the three years since my departure, JAWS, the world’s most powerful and most widely used screen reader has carried on quite nicely without me.  FS has released versions 6.xx, 7.xx, 8.xx and I’m now running the public beta of 9.xx, a very nice release.


Also, in those three years, two screen readers (Mobile Speak and Talx) have come out for Symbian phones without any help from the almighty me.  Code Factory and Dolphin have released screen readers for Microsoft Windows Mobile and Smartphone Edition, Humanware has done its very cool VoiceStream, GW Micro has done a handful of releases, Serotek has implemented some of the coolest screen reading concepts I’ve seen in a long time, Sun got orca working pretty well, Apple has put a credible screen reader on Macintosh and all I’ve really done is unsuccessfully try to get a few projects going and wrote a bunch of blog articles that have little more effect than pissing in the wind.  Hence, the world of technology for people with vision impairment continues merrily without me and I still struggle with the same old demons that haunted me three years ago.


Plain and simply, I am not nor ever was a terribly important component of the AT biz; my manic moments, however, led me to that irrational belief and it cost me the one opportunity I had to make the greatest possible effect on software we blinks use – namely working on JAWS.   I wish I could say I don’t care; I wish I could just forget about all of this stuff, retire and go fishing almost every day.  Instead, I let the ghosts of BlindChristian’s past haunt me and rent a ton of space in my mind. 


Fuck it…




In JAWS 8.xx and the betas of 9.00 (I didn’t look at earlier versions), I noticed an odd little pronunciation issue that isn’t a “bug” or something actually worth fixing but it is an anomaly that I find amusing.  If, with the US English settings turned on I type $5, JAWS will, instead of saying “five dollars” will, instead, say “dollar five.”  If, however, I type €5 JAWS will read “five euros” rather than the reverse.  It shouldn’t be hard to fix the location of the word dollars in a phrase, especially as it has already been done for Euros so, for consistency, sake; I think the JAWS guys should make the change.  I just checked and “yen” is also spoken like dollars.


Also, why don’t semi-colons cause a full stop as they do when a person who knows the purpose of the symbol would read it if looking at the page visually?



— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential