Hello folks. I have decided to devote this entry to something that has become rather near and dear to my heart over the past number of years. That is, the current screen reader landscape. I would specifically like to focus on 3 of the screen readers: 2 which I used in the not-so-distant past and the other which I'm currently using. I should mention before going any further with things, that these 3 aren't the only screen readers I've used. But some events within the adaptive technology industry have peaked my interest.
I would first like to give my thoughts on something that occurred at Serotek last year. That is, the departure of some staff. I do not know any of these staff in person, although I did get to know one of them briefly when I was little. This person wasn't working for Serotek at the time, and as a matter of fact Serotek wasn't even born yet. But suffice it to say I was a bit saddened to read of the departure of this person from the corporation as well as her fellow staffers who left. Please visit http://www.serotek.com
for more. I was a paid Serotek customer for a few years and really like their screen reader. In addition, I have one of their pieces of software right here on my Mac computer. I'm speaking about iBlink Radio, which was just recently released for the Mac and it has indeed been a very welcome addition to mine. More on my Macintosh computer in a bit. The good news here about Serotek is that they're still going strong.
Now to another Windows-based screen reader which I had the good fortune to use for awhile. This one is NVDA, which as many of you are aware by now stands for Non-Visual Desktop Access. It is developed by the Australia-based NV Access Foundation and is totally free for personal use. It was feared by some that NVDA would soon cease to exist, but I am happy to report that this is in fact not the case at all. I haven't used NVDA either for awhile now, but it appears things are moving along well with it. In addition, I really like the idea of an NVDA remote add-on. I think it will be awesome for people who need tech support but can't shell out thousands or even hundreds of bucks. To check this out as well as all the general awesomeness that is NVDA, just point your favorite browser to http://www.nvda-project.org
Finally, I would like to talk about VoiceOver, which is what I'm currently using. As readers of this journal know by now, my parents got me a MacBook Air for Christmas in 2013. This is my first Mac computer, and I really like it. For Christmas last year one of my presents was an Apple SuperDrive, which has also worked well for me. I have read numerous complaints online about Apple's commitment to their customer base, particularly when it comes to accessibility. I would like to give my take on this matter. Some of you might think I'm not yet experienced enough with Apple products to do this, but I respectfully disagree. I started out on OS X Mavericks, and am now using Yosemite. So I think I at least have enough experience to shed some light on the matter so here goes. Some of the complaints which I've read indicate that VoiceOver should work exactly like other screen readers. Well, the fact of the matter is that we're talking a whole different operating system here. Do apples and oranges taste the same? Does Windows work the same way as other platforms? It's the same sort of thing. Sure, there may in fact be similarities shared by all these platforms and screen readers, but there are also differences in how tasks are performed and so on and so forth. If you don't like the way VoiceOver does things, then I'd suggest not getting a Mac or any other Apple product. That's exactly why we have all these choices in life, is it not? What I've also been reading is that VoiceOver isn't good enough and that Apple just doesn't care about accessibility like they should. This seems to go hand in hand with what I just discussed here, i.e., that VO should operate exactly like the other screen readers. It really seems to me as though certain members of the blindness community are never content, even if they had access to the moon. This also appears to be true with the disability community at large, but I've mainly seen it throughout the blindness community. Perhaps this is why I haven't joined the National Federation of the Blind or the American Council of the Blind. But more on that in a future entry. For now though, I will just leave it at this. I think Apple is doing a very commendable job with VoiceOver. It has worked very well for me. There are still features with which I'm not that familiar yet, and I've also had some minor issues. However, this is by no means the company's fault. I just haven't mastered everything there is to know about VoiceOver. I have, however, had a very positive experience with it thus far and wish to heartily commend the company on their great work. Furthermore, I feel they did the right thing by including VoiceOver and all other accessibility features right along with everything else. So I hereby declare that Apple is indeed very committed to accessibility. Those who feel differently about this have a right to their opinion. That's all it is though: an opinion. Not all of us feel the same way.