Is the Death of the Third Party Screen Reader Really a Good Thing?

These days it seems more voices are adding to a chorus of death to the third party screen reader. Apple fueled a universal hope in the blindness community that if one company could make their products talk straight out of the box, so could the rest of the mainstream. Paying over a thousand dollars for a commercial screen reader is always a daunting prospect, but reducing screen reading choices to a free built-in solution could create its own grim reality.

The current built-in screen readers are insufficient for the blind professional. Apple’s Voiceover, an excellent choice for core functionality, does not grant blind professionals the access to, or flexibility with, a wide range of enterprise products required in the workplace. Actually, these core screen readers sometimes have difficulty with day-to-day tasks. Read Chris Hofstader’s frustrations with OSX.

Microsoft is hardly better. Though they are not last in accessibility, it would be an exaggeration to suggest Narrator has evolved to the point of self-sufficiency. Microsoft may or may not improve on the built-in screen reader in Windows 10. Microsoft may or may not fully incorporate Window Eyes into their operating system, but the blind professional needs to be productive today, not tomorrow.

The Cost of Free Products

Have you read Tim Connell’s take on the cost of free products on the NFB’s Braille Monitor? It’s a thought-provoking piece suggesting free assistive technology is not always better and that a super market approach may sacrifice the level of detail and response only smaller specialists can afford. Read the article in its entirety so you can decide for yourself if my own points are fair or full of bologna.

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

“A growing number of people in the print-disability field are not happy with the status quo and with the fact that specialist products are expensive and not available to all. The prospect of cheap or free products has become the goal that many individuals as well as some agencies are now supporting. When I started to think about this subject, my first question was, “Who is going to support an argument against free products?” “Not many people” is the answer. So perhaps the days of specialist developers and vendors really are numbered. In a world where many problems still exist, particularly in employment, some people need to assign blame and prefer to view the specialist providers as the problem. The cost of a commercial screen reader is viewed as the problem, and getting something free would help solve that problem. However, I keep returning to the supermarket analogy and have come to the conclusion that those small steps of change that occur incrementally mean we may not know what has been lost till it is too late. We may not really be aware of the change that is currently underway in the AT market. The point that is being missed is that it is not the cost of the product that should be our focus, but the ability of the product to fully meet the needs of each individual. Does a keen fisherman get all of his fishing gear at Kmart, or does he go to a fishing gear specialist? Do elite athletes buy all their sporting gear from Target, or do they go to specialist suppliers? Is price going to be the driver to make people successful, or is it getting the best possible solutions that will determine whether people can achieve their potential?”

A few critiques

First, Damn political correctness. I didn’t realize blind people were now part of the “print disability” community. When did the equally dreadful “visually challenged” fall out of style? I can’t keep up!

Sorry, I digress.

Second, while free or cheap is certainly desired among blind professionals, it’s hardly unique to the blindness community. Who doesn’t like a good deal, and in a market where it costs hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars to read a screen, scan a book, and read the Braille, it’s more than fair to ask why manufacturers continue to peddle prices that are rational for government agencies but completely out of step with reality for the individual consumer?

Third, yes, I am guilty of believing screen reading technology ought to be available to all. The assistive technology industry cannot claim small market arguments to justify exorbitant prices and then turn around with prices only accessible to an even smaller piece of that market. Surely the core products and business models have evolved to a point where companies can drop prices and still enjoy a healthy profit.

Next, Connell’s argument about our need to assign blame is perplexing. Is it the author’s claim that consumers do not have the right to complain when they do not get a return on their investment? He makes the point that we should not judge a product by how much it costs, but rather, by how fully it is meeting our needs. From where I’m sitting, and gauging by the comments accompanying my complaint against Freedom Scientific, the so-called specialists are not fully meeting the needs of the blind professional. Surely the elite athlete has the right to complain when the specialty store fails to produce adequate equipment.

Blind professionals recognize the value of the specialist but equally recognize the specialists too often overlook the value of their customers. Despite the prices, blind customers are still paying for the products, and it is not unreasonable to raise expectations for the amount of productivity you get out of that investment.

While the cost of certain blindness apps can sometimes be higher than usual, people still purchase the products because they fulfill a need. You don’t have to look far beyond the KNFB Reader app to prove the blind will pay if the app is solid.

To be fair, there is a uniqueness to the assistive technology arrangement. The industry does not pitch customers. They pitch to agencies with the capacity to meet market prices, and the agencies are too bureaucratic to demand better deals.

Common Ground

By now you may’ve gotten the impression I thought Connell’s article was outrageous. Not so. His overarching argument that pricing should be second to the best solutions could be painting too simplistic a picture of the status quo, but on the whole, Connell makes some valid points we should consider before deciding the third party screen reader should die.

If the industry is indeed drifting toward a single, built-in solution, I worry about what that means for stability. How many Voiceover and Braille glitches persist in iOS 8? How much attention has Microsoft given Narrator in its regular updates to Windows 8 and later in 8.1? Apple and Microsoft feature excellent accessibility lines, but these teams can only respond to what their products offer today. They are not in the position to execute accessibility bug fixes overnight.

Perhaps there’s comfort in the devil we know? JAWS can be nerve-wracking. Professionals want to squeeze advanced features out of the consumer-friendly System Access. Window Eyes is…Well, it’s Window Eyes. I mean no insult. I’m just too much of a simpleton to understand their command logic, and NVDA always seems to be on the verge of dying if they don’t generate enough donations, but by golly, there’s something to be said for on-the-fly choices when one application can work around an accessibility issue better than the others. I believe I would have already switched to a Mac if there was a logical alternative to Voiceover, which is extraordinary on iOS but worthy of a few offensive gestures on OSX.

Screen readers have generally reached a plateau. This is not because there is nothing else that can be done to make screen readers better. It’s because manufacturers are not devoting as much creative thinking to adapting their product to emerging apps.

Final Thoughts

Am I selling out after railing against my perceived evils of certain companies? I like to do my tiny part to keep them accountable, but I am always going to fall on the side of choice for the blind professional who needs more than one option to get things done.

Perhaps the Freedom Scientifics of the world are also betting Apple and Microsoft will soon dominate the screen reading market, rendering their solution irrelevant. Maybe that’s the best explanation for the general plateau we’re experiencing. If so, we may be in for a rough ride.

The current screen reader landscape could be far better than what it is. Yet, competition creates choice, and choice makes for greater productivity. Microsoft has had ample time to make something extraordinary happen with Windows 8. Maybe something will surprise us in Windows 10 under the new CEO, but I’m not holding my breath. Even if we are pleasantly shocked, I will still consider it a really good thing if customers can continue enjoying a diverse market to get their work done as sighted peers. Whatever Mr. Connell may believe, the blind do appreciate and pay for good products.

Okay, let me have it. If you think built-in screen readers and universal accessibility is preferable to the third party screen reader we love to hate, let me know about it in the comments!

About Joe Orozco

Joe Orozco is the Communications Director for Serotek Corp. He is also Managing Director for AlphaComm Strategies. When he isn't writing web pages, proposals, and online marketing materials for social and commercial entrepreneurs, he enjoys reading and writing about technology, financial management, and strategic planning. Follow Joe on Twitter @ScribblingJoe
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15 Responses to Is the Death of the Third Party Screen Reader Really a Good Thing?

  1. Vic Pereira says:

    All points are valid when applied to the “blind professional”. I am being generous when I say that ninety percent of us who use a screen reader only use ten percent of the features: I suspect it is closer to ninety-five percent of us are using five percent of the features. Personally I use read-to-end, read current line and some browser and table specific navigation key strokes. The rest are common Windows commands that are independent of the screen reading technology. Of course the screen reader developers like to toss in a feature that duplicates what can be done in Windows, for example JFW and Window-Eyes have a hot key to call up the items in the system trey. Windows already has Windows key+B to do this; but I digress.
    Freedom Scientific and AI Squared will always have a market of ‘blind professionals” who need those advanced features. If all I do is a bit of web browsing, reading email, dabbling with Twitter, simple word processing, playing the occational tune with a media player and working with low brow spread sheets a built-in text to speech solution like VoiceOver will do the trick. A kean fisherman will of course go to a specialty shop for specific items. Those of us who may fish once or twice a year when renting a house boat to consume an unhealthy amount of beer will pick up an inexpensive pocket fisherman with a few hooks, jigs and generic lures.
    How I use my iPhone makes VoiceOver the right tool. On a Windows platform SA To Go and NVDA have more than enough capabilities to allow me to use a computer for what I want to do. Because I don’t see the point in spending one thousand dollars plus for me to be able to use a computer, I don’t begrudge the ‘blind professional” access to an expensive tool to get the job done.

  2. Ben King says:

    Joe, thank you for your article on the third party screen reader. I very much prefer accessibility built into the product as apposed to the third party screen reader. I used Jaws for thirteen years and found it very difficult and hard to use. My computer was always crashing on me and Jaws would not always work with the applications at hand. My professors had to email me the course information because I could not access black board with Jaws. I also found that I only had one computer on campus that I could use. The rest of the students on campus could use any computer in any building on campus. They did not just need to go to the library. Even in the library, students still could use any computer that they walked up to. While I did very well in school, I did not like paying more then everyone else for my technology. I switched to the Mac in 2008 because of universal design. I was very impressed with how much better Voiceover was to use then Jaws. I used the Mac and IOS products for five years and found things to work very well. I switched back to Windows in 2013 because of Narrator and universal access. I have had the best experience on Windows using Narrator! I find Narrator very nice to use and just like Voiceover on the Mac things just work out of the box. It is very nice to be able to pay the same prices as everyone else. Why should I have to pay more for a solution then my sighted peers. I should not need to. My conclusion is I feel that universal design will be better off in the long run because people will have more access to applications that just work out of the box. Employers will no longer have to worry about the $2000 price tag when hiring blind employees. My high school uses Ipads for their students and I think to myself, if I was a student now I would have everything accessible to me. Whenever I go into the Microsoft and Apple stores, I advocate for universal design. I believe very strongly in this philosophy and want it to succeed. I want students to have a better time in school technologically then I did and universal design is the way to make that happen.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree! I feel the same about third-party screen readers as I do about specialized devices. We should have the choice and no one should try to force us into using a device simply because speech is built-in. yes, the price is prohibitive for some but that is true about so much in this world. If a company has put my needs as a person with a vision impairment first, I am more likely to try to save money to purchase the product.

    Ah, and I do use iDevices but cannot see myself at this stage in my life jumping through hoops to try to learn to use a Mac.

    I will, however, dive into learning the latest Windows environment as it has enabled me to be productive in various job positions for over 20 years.

    Thanks much for giving me the opportunity to once again state my views on this ongoing important topic.

  4. Joe Orozco says:

    @ Vic: You make a very compelling argument here. People who have no need for the full menu of features ought to have an option to buy a lite version of a product. Someone, I forget their name now, recently advocated for a lite version of JAWS that would sell only the essential features at a steeply discounted rate, but then again, if people are finding NVDA useful, there’s no need to buy even a lite version.

    That does bring up the importance of contributing to a free service to keep it free. We would all do well to remember that NVDA has mostly been kept alive through a few donations and a handful of grants. If we want to keep it free, we need to pitch in when we can. NVDA is a heck of a lot better than Narrator.

    @ Ben: Given your recommendation, I may have to give Narrator another shot. I will say it was nice to be able to register a brand new computer without sighted assistance. It sounds silly to get excited about setting up my home network, set passwords and the like, but it’s awesome to be able to do it without waiting on someone to come and set it up out of the box. That being said, while Narrator continues to be useful to me in the login screen, it’s not robust enough to carry its weight in a normal workday. I’m not even talking about the illogical key commands, which is something we can all get used to. I’m talking about general access to screen elements that work really well on the free NVDA, but if you’re managing it, clearly I need to give it another look.

    I think my fear is the perceived lack of a dedicated accessibility development team. Microsoft’s accessibility line is outstanding, but I don’t know they’re the ones also building on the screen reader.

    @ Lynnette: Well said. I know it must seem like I must want my cake and eat it too. Keep the assistive technology options, but please make them more affordable? It just seems ridiculous that a Braille display that costs $400 to build can be sold for thousands. See my personal blog for my piece on OCR programs and the way blind people are being financially manhandled.

  5. Rick Lewis says:

    The expense/functionality of screen readers was brought home to me (again) when I called Freedom Scientific to discuss diminished accessibility of the SiriusXM web player in Jaws 16 versus 15.
    The FS tech support person told me all about how Jaws isn’t tailored to work with specific websites, and what SiriusXM could do to fix their player.
    I told him that SiriusXM had promised a viable solution to numerous individuals since 2011 without producing one, but noted that Jaws 16 was markedly less useful than 15 for this purpose. (SiriusXM uses a flash player, and many of its functions are unlabeled in Jaws, but now even the workable ones are harder to use, but not in 15.)
    It’s certainly true that in the free marketplace, SiriusXM can offer a cumbersome, hard-to-access player if they choose, ignoring the needs of their blind customers.
    However, after my fruitless conversation about the player’s poorer accessibility in 16, due to changes in the newest version of JAWS, I couldn’t help thinking about how much I’m paying for this product on an ongoing basis.
    I still rely on JAWS for access. That need is more frivolous than a workplace necessity, but I’d think that for the price we pay, FS should be concerned enough to investigate when a commonly used website is less usable with the latest update.
    I find it hard to believe that we’d do worse with a solution supplied with the operating system.
    I find the lagging IOS support frustrating, but at least web and software developers can easily measure the effectiveness of accessibility using the same tools everyone else uses. We should have the same situation in Windows.
    At least then we’d all be on common ground.

  6. Alex says:

    Hi,
    Interesting article.

    However, NVDA does have some backing now, with the help of Nipon (see link below).

    I don’t think screen readers are as doomed as you seem to think, because there’s a lot of smart people working at FS, and I can count on NV Access delivering the goods, if perhaps a bit later than FS or GW Micro. If I need to do something NVDA can’t, I’ll grind my teeth ad use something else. Not Narrator. :)

    A smart company watches what every company in that same market is doing, and rushes to do it better. So we end up with mostly working features and mostly covered areas that were once inaccessible. In other words, it’s better than nothing.

    I’m just not willing to deal with all the bugs of the commercial products. What good is a feature if it doesn’t work properly when you truly need it to? When your time and money is riding on a feature sloppily implemented? There’s a lot of segregation and elite foolery in the “blind community”, and JAWS fans will hide their heads in the sand when a bug is pointed out, and the same with the Apple fanboys.

    I don’t care about that. I just want to get work done without my activation key being corrupted and having to use up another JAWS license, or grow six more hands to press all the keys required on OSX to do something like click the mouse, etc. I try and use more than one screen reader; you can’t rely on a standalone screen reader to do everything. JAWS might work better in Outlook than NVDA, for example. If you use Outlook, switch to JFW and get that done. It’s a pain, but that’s what you gotta do if you want to get anything done these days.

    If anything, Internet activation schemes should take a hike because they lack true stability. I’ve seen plenty of JFW stories where someone’s key got trashed for no logical reason. I’ve also seen mainstream software do the same thing. Again, sloppy coding and money in the coder’s mind, plus time limits almost kick software out the door before it’s truly ready for consumer use.

    My theory is that everything is moving so rapidly now, that bits and pieces of software get shoved together like a badly glued puzzle and shipped to end users. Example: Before OSX Lion, it was a two year cycle for Apple to release a new major OSX update. After Lion, we’ve seen annual OSX updates, crammed with cute visual features and some useful ones, even remembering to patch some VoiceOver bugs and introduce new ones with some gimmick feature. My point is we’re going way too fast and driving recklessly with the blinders on. Companies need to either hire proper QA testers, or slow the hell down. They’d probably get more praise if they made a stable, feature-rich solution that actually, you know, worked.

    In closing, I don’t think anything is doomed quite yet, though Narrator is probably worse than Thunder. If we want change, we need to stop whining on twitter and arguing amongst ourselves about what is better. We should band together, submit bugs and requests in a calm but assertive manor. When we find a working feature that really helps us, we give positive feedback. Let’s keep it simple. No analysis paralysis needed here. Simple. If it’s broke, bitch to the company. If it’s working, tell them it’s fixed.

    Apologies for the grumpy comment, but someone had to just put it out there. Have a great day.
    :)
    [1] http://www.nvaccess.org/post/a-more-certain-future-for-free-screen-reader-nvda/

  7. Trenton Matthews says:

    Greettings, and what a very detailed article we got here! I’m hping the following does not feel too “over written.”

    I guess you could say I am one of the few… Since December of 2014, I use the “Chromevox” screen reader:
    http://chromevox.com
    , on my Chromebook daily, and to be honest, there are more blind people complaining about Google not doing enough in the accessibility department, then actually trying out Chromevox itself via its extention, if using the Chrome Browser, or even if you are on Windows 8.1 using that Chrome OS Metro Mode.
    (Link to Chromevox Extension, is on the front page of the Chromevox site)

    I “tip my hat” off to the person who is using Narrator “full time” on their Windows 8.1 machine. To be fair everyone, you can “customize” the keystrokes for Narrator under its “Settings,” hearing demos in action doing just that.

    Although Supernova from Dolphin:
    http://yourdolphin.com
    and Cobra from:
    http://baumusa.com/
    do not get enough notice in North America, for what they previde may indeed be useful to many blind people. Comparing the “Dolphin Cursor” where you “always” go up and down through mouse controls, vs most other screen readers going in a more “sighted-like” way going across “or” up/down depending on which way ya want to go, at least to me, is a bit easier for “newer” users. I’m not bringing up the OCR topic and which screen reader got it first, that would make this comment longer than it already is!

    Finally, below are “two” resourceful lists from Microsoft and Google pages, either on Narrator/MS Accessibility, or on Google Accessibility.
    Keep up the great writing Joe!

    Microsoft

    1 Microsoft Narrator Home:
    http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/hear-text-read-aloud-narrator#1TC=windows-8
    2. Use Windows 8 Narrator With Office 2013:
    https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Use-Windows-8-Narrator-with-Office-2013-9b05378f-e282-450a-a6c9-615b64e8cfb2
    3. Microsoft Accessibility Online:
    http://www.microsoft.com/enable/
    4. Office 365 Accessibility Page:
    http://www.microsoft.com/enable/products/office365/
    5. New Accessibility Enhancements For Office Online blog post:
    http://blogs.office.com/2015/01/09/new-accessibility-enhancements-office-online/
    6. Office Online Accessibility Support Site:
    https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Office-Online-d6018be1-d9fb-450f-8a13-b5a88e0e329e
    7. Windows Phone Accessibility Pages:
    http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/how-to/wp8/settings-and-personalization/accessibility-on-my-phone

    Google

    1. Google Accessibility home:
    http://www.google.com/accessibility/
    2. All Products And Features, (A List Of All Google Accessibility Product Pages):
    http://www.google.com/accessibility/all-products-features.html
    3. Chromevox Screen Reader:
    http://chromevox.com

  8. Joe Orozco says:

    @ Rick: It’s not just a consumer product. At work we’re slow about adopting JAWS updates, but just last week I was appalled to discover V13 did some things better than V15.

    I’d not turn this into an FS bash fest. There are a lot of great individuals at the company, and JAWS is still popular for a reason. I apologize if recently it seems if I’ve made FS the target of my wrath, but they do leave themselves open for criticism over examples they could avoid.

    @ Alex: Right on the mark. Very well said sir.

    @ Trenton: Killer comment as well! I’m not going round publicizing the fact I too am delving into Chromevox on my Toshiba 2, mostly because I’d have to do a little venting about how slow I’m moving through it, but I’m pleasantly surprised, the same way I’ve been surprised about accessibility on my S5, post to come shortly on that experience. And I’m really glad you mentioned Supernova and Cobra. It’s never even remotely occurred to me to give them a try, which I think has a lot more to do with lack of recurring visibility. That, and there are only so many hours in a day to balance all the potential options, but then I guess that was my point. It’s great to have all these tools. I do welcome the possibility of buying a computer that talks out of the box without additional steps to download and run another third party software, but all these avenues keep us sharp and the market competitive.

    And thanks for compiling these resources! I’m bookmarking for review.

    The comments here are all great. Any interest in guest blog posts? :)

  9. Hi! I think the bottom line here is that the pricing on third party screen reading applications like JAWS for Windows needs to come down. I honestly do believe that will happen because of cuts in federal spending and the fact that they will eventually realize more money could be made selling directly to the blind community rather than a federal agency. For now though, “Their bottom line hasn’t been affected enough yet.”
    However, I’m also aware that the biggest problem with the quality of screen reading applications, both out of the box and third party, is the blind community itself. Manufacturers can only produce a product based upon what they know about us and many of us aren’t all that vocal with the creators of our software. If more people got involved in a professional dialog with manufacturers that was based on reality and actually involved the usage of a telephone; I think that many people would be surprised at their willingness to listen. “No!” I’m not talking about complaining to tech support either. I’m talking about asking to speak to the managers and other folks who have direct control over product creation.
    As far as websites go; being a web designer myself (for the purposes of promoting my own products) I can tell you that there is no real excuse for the slop that is out there on the internet. However, particularly where larger corporations are concerned, you can talk to them about it and some will make changes, especially if you are already a customer. I know this because I’ve done it. However, again, “It does need to be done in a professional manner!”
    This was a good read for me that was sent by a friend and customer of mine who thought I might be interested. “Keep up the good work and rock on!”

  10. Trenton Matthews says:

    Hello again Joe, and you’re very welcome!

    I myself have an Acer Chromebook 11. Its the “Moonstone White” version. Its also my “first” ever “fanless” laptop.
    Wow, you got a Toshiba 2? Been hearing how wonderful those are, with their display and build quality!

    The Chromevox keyboard commands, (by default its the “classic” layout,) will feel like you’re using “Emacs” commands, though its not too steep of a learning curve.
    If you would like to change the layout to a more “modern” one that most screen readers use,
    1. Press “Chromevox-o>o” to open the options screen.
    2. Tab till you hear “Change The Current Keyboard.”
    3. Arrow down once to select the “Flat Keymap” layout.”
    4. Press CTRL-W to close the window.
    5. Press Chromevox-Period to bring up a list of all keyboard commands for the selected layout. Escape exits it.

    Although I normally use the “classic Keymap,” if I use the “Flat” one, I keep sticky mode turned on, (search key twice quickly,) so I can easily go back and forward through text, (unless I want to examine text a bit more closely.) Although, if you are in a “Chrome App,” its best to turn off sticky mode before hand, (search key twice quickly,) so that normal keys are free for the app itself, if they have shortcuts, or if wanting to type in an editbox. Also, if inside an app, if sticky keys is enabled, you can’t turn it off while inside the app without closing the app first, then reopening it.

    Lastly, 3 more resources for ya:

    1. Chrome Story, (Chrome OS/Browser news and tips):
    http://www.chromestory.com/
    2. OMG Chrome, (Same as Chrome Story, though from the “UK” perspective):
    http://omgchrome.com
    3. Chromebooks, (Google Plus Community):
    https://plus.google.com/communities/105678482604512626671

    Enjoy!

  11. Joe Orozco says:

    @ Brian: Thanks for stopping by. You raise an excellent point about communicating with the companies. I don’t know that I’m Brian Carver’s favorite person over at FS, Brian being the director of tech support, but when I loop him into a pending issue, he’s good about jumping in and making sure someone finds a solution to my problem. My issues are not always solved. I have a few that persist despite Carver’s best efforts, but sometimes that human element of acting like you care can go a long way.

    It also behooves us to be as descriptive as possible when submitting support tickets of any variety. If the support system does not ask about OS version, software version, etc., we should provide it. We should tell them what steps we’re taking to create the accessibility issue, whether or not we can replicate the problem on other browsers and/or computers, basically anything to eliminate their standard checklist of questions so we can get the help we need as expediently as possible.

    Also, we’re agreed on maintaining professionalism.

    @ Trenton: Please don’t go feeling an ounce of envy over this Toshiba I got. If it weren’t too late, I’d’ve gone for the 11-inch Dell chromebook. It too has a nice build, and while the display is nowhere near as good, it’s irrelevant for me and its performance much better in terms of tackling a handful of open tabs.

    Thanks again for being a fountain of help there with Chromevox. If you’re not preserving the information on a website somewhere, future chromebook users would do well to revisit your comments here!

  12. Trenton Matthews says:

    Hello Joe,

    A site called “Chromibility,” is something I am working on, a resource for Chrome Accessibility information and tips. Much of what will be on the site, is featured in a “lengthy” thread I started awhile back, and is “quite packed with content, over at:
    http://forum.audiogames.net/viewtopic.php?id=14805
    Tips tricks and app/extension sections, can be reached directly by heading level 5 movement.
    The top post of that thread will be filled with related links and resources to Chrome accessibility and mainstream sites, once my Chrome Accessibility site is up, and will also notify folks here in this post or somewhere else, if its more appropriate, once the site’s up for the public. I’m planning
    on creating Chromibility Google Plus and Facebook communities also!

  13. Sky Mundell says:

    Hello Joe, nice artical. I have to agree with everyone here. FS charges way too much for their screen reading solution, and the only way you can get it is by going to an agency and these agencies can be difficult to work with. I too have had problems with jfw’s lives running out at randam, and it was a pain to reauthorize on my school laptop as I had to get the local institution for disabilities to come and fix it and it took a year to get everything done. I recently became a paid member of System Access, and I love it. I think what serotek has done is fantastic, and I hope they continue long into the future. I have spent countless hours on SamNet, marveling at all the great content that is on there. One the things that I love about this company, is that not only do they price their products in such a way that you can, pay for it out of your own pocket if you have the means, but that they are also supportive of people who use other screen readers in adition to theirs, or in place of. I really think that SA, NVDA, and even the free Windoweyes for office really needs to become embraced by state agencies, and agencies all around the world.

  14. Mike Calvo says:

    Wow! So many great opinions here. So, this is the new Serotalk? I kinda like it. Spread the word folks and keep us accountable. We want this to be the go to place for all your Sero Talk. That means Connected Talk.
    As for Joe and the rest of the Serotalk team, keep up the great work guys. I know it’s up hill right now but I love what I am seeing here and I am honored to be a small part of it.

  15. Jake says:

    Very well-written and thought-provoking article Joe. Having switched over to Mac OS recently, I think there is definitely a lot to be said for universal access. I heard a lot of complaints about VoiceOver and Apple’s current state of affairs in general prior to switching over, and I have since read numerous complaints. But I have to commend Apple for including a screen reader as well as all other accessibility features right in their own operating system. Furthermore, their accessibility team gets high praise from me for VoiceOver. Granted I’m not really using any advanced software at the moment, but I have found VoiceOver to be very good indeed. I started out with OS X Mavericks and I’m now on Yosemite, and I have certainly seen the improvements. Back on the Windows side of things though, I used both System Access and NVDA and liked them. I really appreciated Serotek’s implementation of different payment options, and I hope that will continue. The NV Access Foundation is also to be commended for their hard work. If I could I would gladly slip them a few bucks. One thing I’ve been wanting to do is run Windows on my Mac computer if for nothing else to check out the improvements in both these screen readers. So I think there’s something to be said for both cases here, but I can tell you one thing for sure. Paying upwards of about $1000 just to have access to a computer–not to mention the computer itself–is not something that I’d want to do all by myself. It’s a good thing the commercial screen readers I used were already paid for, not counting the demo versions of course since those are free.

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