This year, though, ATIA and the related conferences going on beside it provided some of the most interesting and highly desirable announcements we’ve heard in the AT biz for quite some time. So, in no particular order:
A new non-profit called The Air (for Accessibility Is a Right), announced it would be distributing the web based version of Serotek’s System Access product without charge to users anywhere around the world. This marks the first time a credible screen reader of any sort became available without charge to anyone with an Internet connection. Millions of blind English speakers in India, for instance, can go to their local Internet café and, by typing www.satogo.com into the run dialogue, they will have full access to the Internet as well as popular programs like the MS Office suite on their local computer.
While the announcement about Code Factory and AT&T has been public for a while, Jim Fruchterman, founder of bookshare.org, discussed how now, with the CF Daisy Reader, a person with a vision impairment can use a phone with a $89 screen reader to reader the more than 35,000 (and growing) books in the bookshare.org library. There are no cost Daisy readers for desktops and laptops but CF puts one in your handset for less than $100.
My praise for Humanware, a company I spent little time learning about in the past continues to grow rapidly. My Vic died a miserable death while I was in Orlando. I called the HW technical support, explained my situation and within less than 12 hours, I had a replacement unit in hand and they had my broken one which they will repair and send back to my house at no charge.
Finally, GW Micro announced the long desired scripting language for Window-Eyes. Its strongest feature is that it can use any COM based language so programmers who want to extend Window-Eyes can do so with far greater power and flexibility than any other screen reader out there today. This is massively cool and I hope Serotek does something similar soon so extensibility will have credible competition again.
Lots of smaller events and announcements happened at ATIA and I recommend following up on the blog world and chat lists about some of the other things that have been announced.