I just need to patch together something that reads web pages in Spanish, books, and maybe e-mail. That's it. Has any of you done something similar?
My brother is blind.
He has been using JAWS for over a decade.
I love OSS, and I know many distros have screen readers.
Yet JAWS is just out there ahead.
If she finds it too complicated: try and simplify things.
Remove unneeded icons and menus.
Customize her shortcuts.
Install TeamViewer (if she is remote).
Keep helping her man.
The internet, for my brother, is a place where his limitations are minimized.
Yet to have the world open up in front of you, is all worth it.
My brother (just as me), speak spanish.
He uses JAWS still the same, although the bulk is in english.
Let me know if I can help you in any way.
PS: If anybody can point me in a direction to help OSS screen reader software, please do let me know.
Would love to contribute back.
It's also stealing massive market share from JAWS.
ORCA is probably the strongest FOSS competitor of JAWS:
I don't know whether Debian would be the best choice for OP or not. In my experience, I wouldn't install any new OS for someone unless you are willing and available to help the person until they get the hang of it.
My parents have been using Linux (formerly Debian and now Mint) for over a decade after they got fed up with Windows. I still have to help them from time to time, but I think that would also be the case with Windows, except I would be trying to remove malware instead of showing them how to burn a DVD or what have you.
That's not to say that downloading 3rd party applications for Windows doesn't scare me much more than sudo apt-get install...the OS's just invoke different levels of trust in me. Anyway, XP was the last truly vulnerable version of Windows and thankfully it's been laid to rest.
You may have a much better time with an iphone/ipad/ipod touch. The interface is much simpler than a desktop, and VoiceOver is much easier to use than JAWS.
Apps that can help (there isn't one catch all)
Apple mail is pretty simple, and fully VO compatible
Voice Dream Reader simple text to speech app that syncs with pocket, evernote, dropbox, and most importantly bookshare. a service for the blind with pretty much every book published on it.
Web pages are hard to navigate, but maybe some combination of pocket and voice dream reader will do the trick.
I'm going blind and this is how I perform the tasks you're talking about.
Unfortunately, if these solutions are beyond the means of your mom, there aren't many other options for the tasks you are talking about,
I'm working on an SDK that allows developers to add a conversational interface to mobile apps. This type of siri-like interface turns out to be much easier for seniors to learn than traditional assistive technology. You can check it out at conversantlabs.com
Feel free to message me if you want to talk more about helping your mom out.
The biggest problem with modern intelligent phones, specially apple ones, is that there is zero tactile feedback on the screen vs good old buttons or keyboard.
For an much more in-depth and eloquent discussion of touch screens and accessibility, you should check out this paper, slide rule which is the research that the VoiceOver design is based on.
This is one of the few places where I give iDevices a lot of credit. Apple knew that touchscreens have certain disadvantages in that regard, and put a lot of thought into features that overcome those disadvantages. The result is something that's in many ways more usable for a blind person than a full-sized computer.
Source: A family member volunteered to help blind students for a while.
1. An iPod/iPad/iPhone with the built in VoiceOver screen reader is going to be much simpler than a PC, and thus easier to get started with.
2. If a PC is required, then try the free/open source www.nvda-project.org. It is very similar to JAWS.
3. A final alternative is a simplified interface for new blind computer users, like Guide (http://www.yourdolphin.com/productdetail.asp?id=30). I don't have much experience with that.
OS X has some really nice screen reading/accessibility stuff builtin and you can have it do things like read books from the iBook's Store out loud. Mail.app has some support for voice control if you're willing to get it all setup before giving her the computer.
Source: I worked at a school for the blind and have completed accessibility projects for legacy web applications. Even those bloated beasts just needed a relative handful of changes and were mostly usable.
Really? This day and age? No one in my life is blind, so I just assumed at least some minimally level of accessibility.
I wonder how many blind and sight-impaired people there are in the general population?
Your best approach should depend on the answers to those questions. Maybe, the best solution is to forgot email and web pages (for now, or maybe even completely (1)) and give her a good way to listen to spoken books.
Contact an expert, for example ONCE if you are Spanish.
(1) that may sound harsh and also sort-of is but it may be the best solution. For example, if she is mentally old and hasn't used computers much, it may be years for her to learn to use a computer. Years that she could have been listening to spoken books, relearning to go shopping, make tea or cook meals, etc.
I also used emacsspeak for programming, and I don't think I would recommend it as easily.
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i prefer adriane though
I used to know someone who used an Ubuntu-derived distribution and seemed to get on fine with a screen reader and a set of headphones on his laptop. I think it was Vinux, but I'm not sure.
Another option you could look at, if you really want to go with a desktop computer, is a braille terminal (https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Refreshable_braille_display). I've seen some blind colleagues at work use them, but I don't know how the usability compares to a screen reader.
My understanding, based on conversations with and writings by blind users of Debian, is that a braille terminal is helpful for the bandwidth and context it provides, and useful as a supplement to interact with many programs (especially as an engineer spending lots of time in terminals and editors), but not satisfactory as a complete substitute for a screenreader and accessible applications, even if you spent 100% of your time in a terminal.
If you think a tool like this might have potential to be of use to your mom, let me know and I can try to update it in whatever way you think would help. (I can only help with tools running on Windows, as that’s all I know how to build.) Feel free to contact me at Barker@Herbi.org.
(I work in the Accessibility team at Microsoft, but my spare-time Herbi.org projects aren’t related to Microsoft. If you have any questions about the features in Windows for people who are blind or have low vision, let me know.)
I was curious, so I had "Alex" read me some news from http://www.20minutos.es (first Spanish-language newspaper I found), and he did not have a Spanish accent. Perhaps there's a better voice in a Spanish localization of OS X.
I recommend using VoiceOver with QuickNav on because that makes navigation much easier. VoiceOver also allows you to set keybindings for launching AppleScripts, which you might be able to leverage to remove some of the complexity from learning/using VoiceOver:
Apple has a handy keybinding reference, which is VoiceOver accessible:
Applevis is a great community, and so far I've found an answer to all of my other questions by searching their forums: http://www.applevis.com
Could this be useful?
- Windows 8.1 with Internet Explorer 10 with built-in "use the computer without a display" options turned on
- A Chromebook with Chromevox (you can go through the Chromevox tutorial on any computer with Chrome, but the keybindings are slightly different for each OS)
- An iPad with VoiceOver
The controls she would need would be very simple. At a minimum, start reading and stop reading. Maybe something to skip to the next item if she gets bored with whatever she's on.
My mother is disabled, so I've thought a lot about these kinds of issues.
That being said, some websites don't play well...
It's mainly based on Debian along with a Braille display if I recall well. I suggest anyone interested to check his website.
I'd recommend contacting this organization and others so they can give additional practical advice based on their experience helping others.
I personally have fallen victim to the hands of malware on my windows PC (doing nothing unusual I feel) which rendered it very frustrating to use, but my Mac has not had any significant issues. I imagine that as someone vision impaired these issues would be catastrophic.