RE: screen-reader versus self-voicing app

aloha, raman!

yes, i should have stated my assumptions up-front, but in a world 
where the windows platform enjoys such market dominance, i thought it 
safe to assume that -- for an average user -- the system upon which 
she or he has to work is most likely a windows box, or at least, a GUI 
interface, but then again, i know how to parse assume into its 
constituent parts, and i should have stated them up front...

i was referring to self-voicing applications in the windows environment,
rather than any and all self-voicing applications -- emacspeak doesn't 
present the perceptual black holes that a windows-based self-voicing 
application can cause by being unable to interpret the underlying OS 
interface, when invoked from within the self-voicing application as it
enables an aural user interface which contains, or can be extended to 
contain, whatever one needs in order to work with documents, create 
documents, and render documents...  on the topic of aural user 
interfaces, the book of the same title, by raman, is HIGHLY recommended 
reading for all members of this (or any other) WG...

once used, the power and advantages of emacspeak are undeniable, 
compared to anything else out there (although i've heard that the 
latest releases of Orca have astounded those fortunate enough to 
have access to them), but, for the average user who just wants to 
earn a paycheck or email friends and relations, the learning curve 
is simply too steep to be a realistic alternative for a very significant
proportion of the targetted user group...

i pine for the days when i used emacspeak almost exclusively, but when i 
became heavily involved in the visually impaired computer users' group of 
new york city and in the authoring tool and user agent accessibility 
guidelines working groups at the w3c, i quickly realized that if i was to 
provide meaningful assistance to group members and useable advice to tool 
makers -- most of whom worked in "locked-down" windows environments, 
and had no choice in the matter -- i, too, would have to work extensively 
in that environment, rather than that which i prefered and which launched 
my webmastering career...  it is easy to switch from one box to another,
if you have the hardware and the available mental-RAM to keep vastly 
different operating procedures in one's head, but that does not endow one
with a realistic appreciation of how poor and how slow development of 
assistive technology has been on the windows platform...

these were the days when the only option was to either keep switching 
between machines or attempting a dual-boot setup, not today's world of 
virtual machines which actually can run not only windows software, but 
windows assisstive technology reliably...  when i established a wide 
area network and email services for american foundation for the blind, i 
did so using emacspeak, but when i had to provide assistance to sighted 
and blind colleagues alike, it was invariably in the windows 
environment...  i have always chaffed at the limits of a GUI interface, 
as it is merely a pre-determined and limiting set of options from which 
one has to choose, and personally vastly prefer working from the command 
line, but for me that was a luxury, when it came to providing meaningful 
assistance to persons in work situations where i was contacted to either 
specify a workstation for a blind user or to assist blind users using 
windows-based products...  i quickly came to realize the disconnect that 
threatened to seperate me from the vast majority of those with whom i 
came into contact, unless i underwent the frustrations and encountered 
the peculiarities of windows based screen readers and their interaction 
with "mainstream" applications, i wouldn't be on the same plane as the 
users i was tasked with assisting -- so i stopped turning to a command 
line interface, using emacspeak do get work done, quickly and 
efficiently, to living with the devil that sits so heavily on the 
shoulders of most blind users -- the after-the-fact bolting-on of 
accessibility patches, bridges, and programs to provide a sheen of 
accessibility...  it also helped me with dealing with the major screen 
reader vendors with which most blind individuals in the united states, 
as i intimately knew the troubles with each screen readers, and could 
bring enough technical expertise to the problem statement so that the 
AT developer needed only to effect a change based upon an analysis of 
the administrative and technical/diagnostic information i provided, 
in order to help isolate bugs and point developers in specific, 
targetted directions...  otherwise, i would have been no different than
the sighted person who uses a screen-reader to test its fucntionality
and provide "expert assistance" to those dependent upon a screen-reader,
without turning off the monitor, and uplugging the mouse...

i suppose the impasse is similar to that ennunciated by those who ask:
"why would a blind person want to watch TV?" -- obviously, to participate
in the wider shared cultural experience with which TV is capable of 

not all self-voicing applications are limited, but those to which most
individuals have access which can be run in a "locked-down" user 
environement are supplemental to a base screen-reader, not an 

APHORISM, n.  Predigested wisdom.
               -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
Gregory J. Rosmaita,
Camera Obscura:
---------- Original Message -----------
From: "T.V Raman" <>
Cc:,,, public-,
Sent: Tue, 11 Sep 2007 11:22:25 -0700
Subject: RE: screen-reader versus self-voicing app (was: Re: Screen-
reader  behaviour)

> +Gregory's summary though written in a nice logical progression
> starts with a couple of strong assumptions which leads to the
> conclusions he arrives at.
> I've used a self-voicing app -- Emacspeak -- for the last 12
> years, and everyone here who knows me knows that I am more than a
> casual computer user.
> So Gregory -- in future, when you write something like this,
> clearly document your opening assumption.
> In this particular case, your opening assumptions were:
> A) User is victim to a locked-down "user environment"
> B) You confused "operating system" with "user environment".
> In the Linux / Emacspeak case, neither (A) and (B)  are true,
> which consequently debunks most of what you wrote ---

Received on Friday, 14 September 2007 01:12:22 UTC