Good Will for Screen Reading

Richard Holloway

My position on this screen reader controversy is basically the same as one I just read elsewhere on the list-- I don't care who produces a screen reader or any other helpful adaptive product, or how they do it. If Peter indeed has the requisite training and skills, I wish him well in developing the next great thing to replace JAWS. I sincerely do.

Whoever might develop it, I don't t think it matters if they can see themselves or if they're blind, nor am I concerned as to their race, religion, or national origin, or what planet they are from, as far as that goes. So long as producing the product has not brought harm to others or something outrageous like that, I'm a potential buyer. With that said, I'll need to believe the developer of a commercial product which costs many hundreds of dollars will be around to support my purchase for a reasonable time, and quite honestly, I won't be uninstalling my $1000 copy of JAWS to be a beta tester of such a product either. JAWS may have some issues, but in reality, I would anticipate many MORE issues from an early release produced by any new competitor, and I don't wish to waste my time and effort and money to be the person who finds the next reason the thing crashes. As I mentioned before, it took 25 years for JAWS to come so far. Maybe Microsoft could fast-track a replacement, but doing so would likely cost millions upon millions of dollars. Realistically, who besides a mega-company would have the means to quickly develop this with such a small potential return on investment?

I'm suspecting the "federationist" comment was not intended as a general dig-- at least I hope it wasn't, but I would take the liberty as a member of the National Federation of the Blind myself, to point out that there are many, MANY members of the NFB (tens of thousands), and the NFB does a LOT of good for thousands upon thousands of blind people. I personally know of scores of blind children whose educations has been greatly impacted in a very direct and positive way through knowledge and support gained through the NFB. They get canes in kids hands when kids might otherwise be told for YEARS to WAIT to learn to navigate on their own. They get children reading braille when many TVI's in schools want to have low vision kids reading print exclusively until they can no longer read visually at ALL. And yes, they get kids reading with JAWS, among other screen readers too. The NFB has been involved in developing a number of products for the blind, perhaps most notably the knfb kurzweil reader several years back, which continues to be a very helpful product for a lot of blind people. The NFB invested over a million dollars in that project alone, if memory serves. If anyone here uses a knfb reader, know that without the NFB, you probably would't have that option.

They have also been very involved in developing a car which has been demonstrated in prototype form which can be driven by the blind. Not just ridden in and automatically driven FOR the blind, but actually operated based on feedback provided to the blind operator. It is a pretty neat concept. This may not ever go so far as to offer a practical way for blind drivers to drive on the public roads, but who knows? What I think it does for certain is make many sighted people aware that blindness is an inconvenience; perhaps better called a nuisance, which a great many people are capable of overcoming to such a degree that they can go about life and do things on their own to a very large degree. That's sort of the point of using screen readers as well, isn't it? Overcome obstacles and do what you want, when and how you want, right?

Apologies for pressing this thread slightly off topic, but I would hate to have misconceptions about the NFB cause anyone, even one single person who might benefit from knowing much of the good about the organization not to take the time to learn. If anyone wants to continue this discussion off-forum I would be happy to share what knowledge I can about the group and how it has been beneficial for my family. I'm probably a lot less "hard-core" than some other NFB members, but I have a lot of appreciation and respect for the organization and what it is all about.

I absolutely agree that nobody is making ANYBODY sign a petition, or buy a particular screen reading product, for that matter.

Somehow I feel almost compelled to borrow from Rodney King, of all people (though I'm no member of the man's fan club), and ask "Can't we all just get along?"

Regards to all,


On Oct 2, 2012, at 3:07 PM, Chris Smart wrote:

peter, are you offering your own vast programming knowledge for this, or perhaps to go find some venture capital or seed money for this? If you're still an "federationalist", get them involved too. Come back to us consumers when you have a powerful product ready to show us that is as customizable as JFW. I'oll be interested as a consumer when you have something that does a better job then Jaws plus Hot Spot Clicker, CakeTalking, and several other rather involved script packages I use on a daily basis.

I think we understand your position. If you don't want to sign the petition, nobody is holding a gun to your head to do so.

At 02:21 PM 10/2/2012, you wrote:
Hello everyone,

Yup the same resources that could be put to better use assembling
programmers to develop a newer and innovative screen reading product giving
the blind community another choice when selecting a screen reader. It was
blind programmers that conceived and developed the current crop of screen
reading products now available to us. It will take an equally ambitious
group of blind programmers to develop even better screen access products in
the future. This is a far better use of time and brain power than a stupid

Peter Donahue

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