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New Technology for the Blind?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the not-just-for-the-sighted dept.

Media (Apple) 213

Recently, quite a few questions surrounding technology for the visually impared have dropped into the Ask Slashdot in-box and I'd like to take the time to share these questions with you. Please read on for more.

Gaming Accessibility Recommendations?

openSoar asks: "I work for a company that makes and runs a virtual online world called SecondLife. One of the most inspirational stories I've heard recently has been about a group of people with extreme physical challenges and limitations who are using our software to great effect including (to quote from the original forum post) - 'the chance to be on an equal playing field for once, to not have to have folks get past what they look or sound like... to be warmly received... to play and have fun the way their peers do.' - I want to make things even better and provide a broad range of accessibility features and options. Time constraints mean I can't tackle everything so I'm trying to hit the really useful ones first. Of course, we're going to ask the users what they think but I figured that the folk here would also have some great ideas and suggestions."

Blind Friendly Open Source Software?

scubacuda asks: "A friend of mine is blind, yet he effortlessly navigates through his Windows XP box (installing programs, buying stuff on eBay, reading web-pages, etc) using JAWS. When I asked him what open source resources were available for him, I was surprised to hear him say, 'Almost nothing.' Is this true? Are we just not looking at the right places, or do blind-friendly resources tend to be Microsoft-centric? I tried to get him to switch over to Firefox, but he says that it doesn't work as well with JAWS as IE does."

MP3 Players for the Visually Impaired?

holden caufield asks: "As the geek-in-residence for my circle of friends, I've been asked the 'Which MP3 player should I buy?' question repeatedly, and I'm yet to offer an answer to them that doesn't rhyme with 'iPod'. Now I've been asked this very same question from a good friend who is blind (only *very* limited vision in one eye), and I'm thinking the iPod is still the way to go? Can anyone tell me their visually impaired experiences with MP3 players? Keep in mind, I don't mean 'can you now use it without looking at it?', since the learning curve would have been flattened for you by being able to study it originally. Any suggestions? A few reasons why I think the iPod will work for him:
  • Simple user interface
  • Cursor changes can be heard with (or without) headphones on
  • Bright back-lighting may be helpful for him.
And now the constraints on the software side:
  • He uses a screen reader (JAWS for Windows), so compatibility with that is possibly more important than nearly any other feature.
  • He is looking for an MP3 player. Ogg and FLAC compatibility is not a consideration, and will not weigh in favor of any device.
  • Sorry, but switching to Linux is not an option, however open-source that is Win32-compatible is fine."

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Please read on for more (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11140847)

Unless you're blind.

Cruel Joke? (0, Flamebait)

Cytlid (95255) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140848)

Gee, When I click on "Read More" I get:

"Nothing to see here, please move along."

Hmmm ...

Come on now (-1, Flamebait)

Primotech (731340) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140849)

"Please read on for more." Sooooo not funny.

Re:Come on now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141113)

If they could read the summary, then surely they can read the rest too?

OS X works for me (5, Informative)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140851)

I beta tested some of Mac OS X's spoken user interface. The current version in 10.3 Panther is excellent, built right into the OS. It reads the text under the mouse, dialog boxes, has a variety of high-quality voices, and comes with basic speech recognition for launching apps and running scripts. The last feature has been there since 7.5, Mac users for years have been (frustrated with) using the "tell me a joke" voice script. Tiger looks like it will have even more [] , but Panther has a lot already.

I like OS X since it also has a bunch of other features for the handicapped, like zoom, contrast and grayscale adjustments. If you're not completely blind, this is quite useful. Check out the Universal Access preferences pane to see the hearing and keyboard and mouse stuff too.

mp3 player for the visually impaired? Hmmm, maybe a laptop running iTunes and the spoken interface enabled. I set it up to read any highlighted text when I hit F8. The only minor problem is that it reads the whole line in the playlist, the name, time, artist, album, genre, etc. That would make quick browsing kind of hard.

Re:OS X works for me (4, Informative)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140876)

I was even able to post to slashdot with it, it would speak the text I was typing in, and recite the names of the buttons I was mousing over, ie. "Submit."

Re:OS X works for me (0, Offtopic)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140887)

This is quite good timing. I just looked at my alma mater's home page [] and I find myself suddenly blind....

Maybe it's just me....

Re:OS X works for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141362)

You may want to explain what you are talking about, as there is a rotating image that is different each time you view or reload the home page. Are you talking about the image you saw or the site design?

Re:OS X works for me (1)

over_exposed (623791) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141714)

You think yours is bad, try this one!
Doane College []

The Mac, speaking English since 1984 (4, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140957)

The original MacIntalk arrived in 1984, and was probably talking in the lab in 1983. There was even a developer's kit of sorts available. If I recall, it could speak English and Spanish directly and had a phonetic mode also.

A historical note:
I wasn't here, but I heard that the first Mac did, or was supposed to, introduce itself using MacIntalk. If true, in 1984 this would've had a lot of *ooh* *ahh* potential.

More history on Macintalk - Apple Technote PT22 (4, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141067)

Here's a Technote from 1990:
Macintalk, the Final Chapter [] You can find some more tidbits on google's groups, search for Macintalk with a date filter of 1990.

Texas Instruments - speaking English since 1980 (2)

zakezuke (229119) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141620)

On a side note Texas Instruments were pioneers in computer generated speech. The Speak & Spell was a product of the 70s and in the 80s I enjoyed text to speech on the TI-99/4a via the "Terminal Emulator II" cartridge. I did show this to a couple of blind users and they were very much in awe by the fact that they could actually interact with online resources such as Compu$erve.

I find it shocking that technology that was available as early as 1982 has progressed so little and isn't widely available.

Re:OS X works for me (4, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141076)

I work in vision research. While we are making advancements in vision rescue and understanding of processes that occur in retinal degenerations, we are some years off from a true rescue. Therefore, technologies such as the ones offered through OS X are going to be significant to our patients who are currently having to deal with vision loss.

Of course Apple was having to work on their accessibility issues for federal approval, but not only are they are going far beyond the absolute base requirements, they have made the same OS a productive work environment for scientific research as well. Therefore, I am more than happy to try and integrate OS X into patient education and use as well as in my basic science research in the lab.

P.S. There is a movement within the National Library for the Blind to replace all of their "books on tape" with a digital format compatible with .mp3 and the iPod would be absolutely ideal here as well with just a little software engineering.

Re:OS X works for me (4, Informative)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141170)

There has recently been a a bunch of great work work on integrating speech synthesis software with KDE. You can read about it here: "KDE 3.4 Will Talk to You [] ". It's not yet ready for completely blind users but the plan is for KDE 4.0 to support blind users. Plus, it's just cool to have your computer talk.

Re:OS X works for me (2, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141447)

This thing about mp3 players for the blind got me thinking.
At some point or another, we have all (most likely) had an original tape walkman.
Could you operate that from your pocket without pulling it out?

An iPod is designed to be held in your hand and played with - like a modile phone or a deck of cards, its not designed for use whilst tucked away.
It seems like styling and design has overtaken functionality.
Maybe, it could be recaptured by allowing a simplified clicker interface on the pod, sacrifice extra faffing and scrolling and sorting for real straight forward play controls.

brail pr0n (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11140868)


Re:brail pr0n (0, Flamebait)

airrage (514164) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141265)

I'm sorry, but unless you are humorless, that IS funny. Yes, I do realize it's a little bit of a put-down, but if we can't make a little fun of each other, what's the point

Blind + Linux = BLINUX (3, Informative)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140869)

BLinux []

Don't forget KDE (2, Interesting)

JaxWeb (715417) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141268)

Heh, I was just reading the KDE news bar on the left, and this came up: KDE 3.4 Will Talk to You []

The KDE Accessibility team is in the process of integrating speech synthesis into KDE. Not only does this mean better support for visually-impaired and speech-impaired users, but the new features should also prove for a fun desktop experience overall.

Seems very relevent!

but the real question is (-1, Offtopic)

joel2600 (540251) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140880)

... have you seen my baseball ??

POPFile (3, Informative)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140882)

Back in the mists of POPFile [] time a developer came along and wanted to work on the HTML of POPFile's UI (made it HTML 4.01 and CSS1 compliant) and I said "If you want to work on it then you need to do that PLUS you need to make it pass the Bobby [] Accessibility Guidelines".

He did all three and I have heard from users that POPFile works well with screen readers. I'm not sure about JAWS in particular.

It wasn't particularly onerous to get the Bobby AA mark for the software and I'm always happy to have another satisfied user.


Re:POPFile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141074)

Some of the Bobby guidelines are absolutely wrong, or at least they were in the past and went years without being fixed.

Nobody should blindly follow the Bobby guidelines without understanding the reasoning behind them and the implications with common user-agents like JAWS.

A better place to start would be the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [] . It has problems of its own, but it's nowhere near as bad as Bobby is. But remember that they are only guidelines, and user-agents often don't do what they are supposed to.

Re:POPFile (2, Interesting)

zoeblade (600058) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141112)

"If you want to work on it then you need to do that PLUS you need to make it pass the Bobby Accessibility Guidelines".

Beware that just because something passes Bobby, it doesn't necessarily mean it's completely accessible. As the W3C [] themselves point out, there is no automated test that can prove or disprove that your site is accessible. Several people have come up with accessibility checklists [] , however, which are a good place to start (as is Bobby, for that matter; it's just not a good place to finish).

Interactive Fiction (4, Informative)

Feneric (765069) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140902)

For diversions, how about Interactive Fiction [] ? It has a textual interface that lends itself well to speakerbox usage, shell [] accounts, and there's a vast library [] of free titles available.

Re:Interactive Fiction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141354)

There's also Nethack [] .

Re:Interactive Fiction (1)

Feneric (765069) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141486)

AFAIK both NetHack [] and CConq [] (the console version of XConq) are fairly hard to play through screen readers because of the way terrain is represented.

Your milage may vary, though.

Interactive Fiction [] has no such problem, however.

Hmmm... (-1, Flamebait)

StevenHenderson (806391) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140924)

Are we just not looking at the right places, or do blind-friendly resources tend to be Microsoft-centric?

I am not sure about the blind and the deaf, but the dumb sure seem to gravitate towards MS products. :)

Phison mp3 player (2, Informative)

John Harrison (223649) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140927)

Phison (and others I would guess) makes inexpensive flash memory key mp3 players with no screen. Operation and navigation simple by necessity since there is no screen. There is an on/off switch and then a rocker switch/button that is used to both skip songs (with a quick flip) or change volume (by pressing and holding). You can find the 512MB version online for about $60.

US Govt contracts requires good tools (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11140928)

Open source software cannot take off in government until it has good tools to fit these needs. Government contracts require it.

These tools are also the future of computers. We all want to speak to and hear our computers, we all want to use small interfaces that are low resolution and high contrast.

Re:US Govt contracts requires good tools (1)

saudadelinux (574392) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141325)

The US Federal government requires that IT-related stuff be Section 508 compliant [] , that is accessible. High-quality and cheap is also good :)

Re:US Govt contracts requires good tools (2, Insightful)

Alan Cox (27532) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141707)

This is correct, and in some other countries beyond even that. Eg in the UK all business web sites have to be accessible. Sadly it needs a bit of enforcement yet (and the government to get its own house in order)

The unfortunate rider is "except where it is illegal". Eg I can't use decss to make a DVD player for epileptics that filters out flashing video, or various other similar things. Apparently the right of the MPAA exceeds the rights of the epileptics.

And then we have ebooks..

"Bitkeeper doesn't pirate movies - people do"

iPod (-1, Troll)

martijn-s (456925) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140933)

You do know that iPod doesn't rhyme with iPod either? :)

Sad truth (3, Informative)

briancnorton (586947) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140939)

In grad school I spent a lot of time on these sorts of things. The infrastructure for the blind is windows only. Some courageous souls work on Macs, but that's about it.

As far as the Ipod goes, that's a terrible idea. He needs one with tactile controls. Ideally, it needs at least 6 control buttons on it, Play/pause, next, previous, volume up/down and power. The Ipod is about the last place you want to look, as the wheel thing will do him absolutely no good.

Re:Sad truth (2, Interesting)

MattyIce (565167) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141340)

Speaking from experience (I've been blind since birth), Windows so far has the best accessibility using a text-to-speech interface. Web-browsing with IE is painless and most other Windows apps are farily easy to use with either JAWS or Window-Eyes. It is true that Firefox does not work well with screen reading applications (JAWS/Window-Eyes) but a beta of Window-Eyes and Mozilla (1.8) shows some promise. The iPod is not a viable option since it requires knowing what is on the display; the wheel does not have any stops so it is nearly impossible to know how many options you have scrolled past and there is no feedback other than pointless clicks. The best audio player would not have a display--I've seen some like this in the past and I've heard the iPodFlash will have no display so that may be viable. Speakup is an open-source project to provide text-to-speech from boot-up to shutdown. I have not used it at all at this point (I primarily use ssh to access my Linux machines) but there is a thriving user community and plenty of support. Gnome 2.4 and above has a screen-reader called Gnopernicus which is supposed to work with OpenOffice and Mozilla. I just installed this on my Gentoo box last weekend and have not done any testing yet but again, there are mailing lists etc. so if you are technically competent, this might be an option. If you google for Speakup, Gnopernicus, YASR, etc., you should be able to find plenty of resources. Hope this helps.

Re:Sad truth (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141737)

I think the next Flash based iPod might be a viable option because it has no visual display, it is all tactile.

Re:Sad truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141766)

Not to be a dick but...

"The best audio player would not have a display--I've seen some like this in the past...

no you haven't...

Itch & Scratch (4, Insightful)

Trurl's Machine (651488) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140955)

A friend of mine is blind, yet he effortlessly navigates through his Windows XP box (installing programs, buying stuff on eBay, reading web-pages, etc) using JAWS. When I asked him what open source resources were available for him, I was surprised to hear him say, 'Almost nothing.' Is this true? Are we just not looking at the right places, or do blind-friendly resources tend to be Microsoft-centric?

Well, as they say, open source software is written when someone has to scratch an itch. Sounds nice, but it has that one unpleasant consequence: the open source community satisfies primarily the needs of the open source community, while the commercial & proprietary software developers at least try to pretend they actually satisfy the need of their customers. Since there's not much blind people among the open source community - there's not much free software writting for them. But since blind people have money and are able to buy a piece of software - there is some commercial software written for them. I think it's as simple as that.

Re:Itch & Scratch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141219)

Mozilla is (and has) been working on it [] . Unfortunately, trying to convert UI elements into anything remotely accessible is not an easy task. All things considered, though, I'd say they're doing a decent job.

And, speaking of which, it's impossible to actually follow the WAI guidelines on Slashdot, as it strips out the 'abbr' tag. Hopefully that will be added if and when it becomes standards-compliant. Or was that just a rumor?

What itch does MS really scratch? (0, Offtopic)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141666)

Why does Microsoft (for instance) not bother to patch a vulnerability in Windows for months, or at least until it's caused billions of dollars in damage to some organizations? They only seem to bother patching when people threaten to move to Linux, and in fact have left much essential functionality (security, performance, backups, etc.) to third parties.

I honestly think the accessibility features in Windows are mainly there so that grandmothers and such get some amount of emotional security -- it's yet another way Windows is "easy to use". Specifically, Grandma likes it when something says it has "accessibility features" even if she never knows that they need to be turned on, much less how to do so.

But OSS offers one nice feature -- non-programmers can "scratch an itch" by paying programmers, who can create patches to existing software. You simply can't do that with MS software -- unless the feature you want is already there or there's some infrastructure to provide it without revealing the source, you'd essentially have to hire Microsoft or hire said programmer to rewrite things from scratch. Not going to happen.

Re:What itch does MS really scratch? (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141856)

It's simple. You have to ask yourself the question "How does this make money for the company or advance its strategic interests?"

RockBox (5, Informative)

JaxWeb (715417) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140962)

Regarding the MP3 player, make sure he checks out Rockbox [] .

Rockbox is an open source (GPL) firmware project for the Archos Recorder MP3 player (among others). They've done great work, which included Talkbox - extra code which can allow the MP3 player to 'talk' to the users.

Now the problem is that the actual hardware itself is terrible - that is not the Rockbox teams fault, of course, though.

I've seen on the mailing list some blind users who've written in just to comment about how helpful and useful the Talkbox features of Rockbox are. So it seriously does help people. It is an amazing project, and I really wish I had worked on it myself.

Anyway, check out the manual or something to check that it is suitable.

Re:RockBox (3, Informative)

JaxWeb (715417) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141190)

Okay, I notice the offical docs doesn't mention it, however the Wiki does here [] .

For those not bothered to click the link, an interesting cut from it:
  • How extensive is Rockbox's support for blind users?

    The Archos Jukebox is an embedded device and as such there are space limitations to what can be done to support blind accessibility within Rockbox. All of the configuration options have voice prompts, and Rockbox can speak directory and file names, but in general informational messages displayed on the screen and detailed debugging information are not available to blind users. For the Recorder, specifically, the quick settings menus are not spoken - although they can still be used by memorising what each key does while in these modes. Sorry.

    Rockbox is however fully usable and configurable by the blind, and many sighted users are using the voice user interface by preference so they can operate their Jukebox without looking at the screen - while driving, for instance (isn't that reassuring?).

Gnome has screen reading support (2, Informative)

ShOOf (201960) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140989)

For Gnome there is Gnopernicus [] , easy to install and it works with any GTK app including Firefox.

Re:Gnome has screen reading support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141095)

Yes, but the guy said he cant use Linux. Or BSD.

Re:Gnome has screen reading support (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141689)

Because he assumed that Linux or BSD didn't have any equivalent to this JAWS thing he's got for Windows.

Re:Gnome has screen reading support (1)

muonman (162064) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141650)

I have experimented with Gnopernicus, and can make it do a few things, but have not been able to actually use it.

I have also not been able to locate a community of users on the web.

Do you know of anyone who has actually made it work?

That would be a Godsend to my efforts to bring Linux to my local Commission for the Blind.

United Linux? (0, Offtopic)

kc3lai (558303) | more than 9 years ago | (#11140993)

Is this an effort similar to United Linux?

Re:United Linux? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141035)

I pledge allegiance
to the flag
of the United Linux of Geekdom
and to the community
for which it stands
one operating system,
with liberty and source code for all.

iPod?! (3, Interesting)

Chriscypher (409959) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141002)

I can see.
Using the iPod in the car is *infruriating*, because with a WHEEL it is difficult to select one of 311 artists, or one of 520 albums.
Spin-spin-spin...backspin, backspin, click click click.
It is *difficult* to *impossible* to select an album, artist or song when confronted with 35GB of music.

Wheel-selection is only somewhat practical to select a playlist (since I only have 2 dozen or so). A wheel interface is impractical unless you can constantly look at it / see it, and you have a limited number of items to select from.

The iPod interface is *overrated*.

Re:iPod?! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141031)

> I can see.

Fine, you don't need to brag.

Re:iPod?! (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141156)

I think you'll have that problem with ANY interface....

I own a Zen Xtra, and it's difficult to use it when driving as well. My listening habits are sort of unusual, though, as I'll listen to the same band or group of albums over and over and over until my fiancee gets sick of it.....

What I've found works well is to:

1. Create playlists while I'm at work. The Zen allows on the fly playlists -- not sure about the iPod, since I don't own one, but I think I remember reading that you can't...?

2. Only use the track forward / backward. Since I'm fairly familiar with all of the music I typically listen to, it's not too much of a problem to skip-skip-skip-skip- oh yea, Our Lady Peace - skip-skip-skip- Smashing Pumkins, ok....

Now, if there was better integration into head units, I'd be in pig heaven. I bought a Clarion car cd-mp3 player before I bought the Zen, and while the discs hold about 6-8 of my compressed albums, somedays it is not enough. However, if I could use the display on the car stereo to see the artist/album/track name of what's playing on the Zen, I'd really be set. I have no issue glancing and seeing what the next album is on a specific CD, but trying to juggle an MP3 player while driving -- that's just asking to cause an accident, imho.

Re:iPod?! (1)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141222)

The Zen allows on the fly playlists -- not sure about the iPod, since I don't own one, but I think I remember reading that you can't...?

The iPod has a "on the go" playlist
simply hold down the button on a song/artist/whatever and it adds it to the "on the go" playlist

Re:iPod?! (1)

Gear_Media (749496) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141386)

"1. Create playlists while I'm at work. The Zen allows on the fly playlists -- not sure about the iPod, since I don't own one, but I think I remember reading that you can't...?"

You can. 08

Re:iPod?! (0, Redundant)

White Roses (211207) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141271)

Have you considered that the iPod wheel is not the wheel you should be fiddling with in the car (I presume you're driving)?

Re:iPod?! (1)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141483)

311 artists? 520 albums? Don't you go through the Genres first?

I've never had a problem with the iPod interface. Infact I find it piss-easy, and would be hard pressed to find another way to find something faster that didn't involve a live search-as-you-type feature, as like iTunes.

Exactly what would be a better interface, BTW? You do realise that the iPod interface was designed to be looked at while opperated, right? It may not be suited to the visually impared, but that doesn't mean it's in anyway overrated.

Clarification (2, Funny)

joranbelar (567325) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141692)

Let me get this straight...

You're saying the iPod is a bad choice for a visually impaired person, because you have a hard time using it while *driving*?

Just wondering...

KDE 3.4 Will Talk to you (1, Offtopic)

bstadil (7110) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141026)

Very pertinent announcememt [] from this morning

OSS for the Blind (1)

caveat lector (202760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141049)

Yes, yes, yes, it is true that open-source software has done a terrible job of catering to the visually-impaired. I have a visually-impaired friend who complains constantly about this.

It is not, however, entirely OSS's fault. Screen-reader developers have been working from IE for the longest time. One suspects that had OSS advocates started leaning on them, matters might have improved... but hey, it's never too late.

night blind? (1)

celeritas_2 (750289) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141057)

My eyes have this little quirk; see the cones in my retina work just fine, like everybody else (they're the ones for bright light and color) but the rods (dim light) just decided to take a vacation and not work at all, 0, nothing. The basic technological fix is well, the lightbulb i guess, but there are times that it isn't practical or useful enough. Has anybody heard of anything nifty to help my problem. I heard of Project Blink involving magnets and large contacts but is there anything else?

Re:night blind? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141174)

night vision goggles? :)

Re:night blind? (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141242)

Isn't that a similar problem to people who have had laser surgery?
Perhaps having a read up about how they cope with low light conditions would be a good start?

Alternatively, you could smoke/take some drugs, your pupils should expand enough to let more light in (there is a serious suggestion lurking in there, and perhaps a visit to an optician/doctor would help to get some form of medication)

Re:night blind? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141385)

people with laser surgery tend to have better night vision after the operation, but may be more sensitive very bright light. my sample size is only a handfull and only applies to lasik with one zyoptic (sp?) wavefront

Re:night blind? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141574)

No, the problem from laser (LASIK) surgery is a completely different problem. When LASIK surgery is done, the laser removes thin layers of your cornea. This effectivly changes the refractive index of the eye. This procedure is done over just a portion of your eye, the part right in front of the pupil.

In dim light, your pupils dialate to let more light in. When this happens, it may be possiblle for the pupil to dialate to a larger diameter than the treated area on the cornea. This results in a halo or doble vision.

Using iPod for talking books (3, Interesting)

mattrwilliams (534984) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141090)

There is a standardized format for talking books on CD called DAISY [] . My mother is blind and I put together a PERL script that takes a DAISY cd, extracts the title/author/chapter information from the DAISY index file and then embeds that as MP3 tags at the end of the MP3s. I then load that onto an iPod so that she can carry around 10-20 books with her without having to carry the fairly large DAISY reader. Huge benefits of the iPod (3rd gen, not 4th): - audible feedback when you push a button or use the scroll wheel (clicks) - customization of main menu to remove irrelevant entries and can put browse by album (book title) at top of menu - separate tactile buttons for play/pause and skip track (chapter). with the 4th gen iPod, these buttons were integrated into the scroll wheel like the iPod mini - much harder to use - large storage capacity - each book is on average 500 MB

iPod (1)

plastik55 (218435) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141102)

This is actually one of my complaints about the iPod. It is difficult to do certain operations without looking at the screen. The scroll wheel does different things depending on what "state" the menus are in, and there is an elaborate system of "timeouts" where the mode of the machine moves from one state to another without your asking it to. Furthermore the wheel goves no tactile feedback (aural feedback, while nice, just doesn't connect to your brain in the same way) and it's easy to move it a click accidentally between selecting an option and moving your finger to the select button.

I'm not blind, but I do have a desire to operate the thing without looking--for example when driving, or turning the volume down before I cross a street.

HOWEVER, when I upgraded I took a long, hard look at other MP3 players, and was forced to conclude that iPod interface was the best despite its flaws. So this is a "six of one, half dozen of the other" sort of situation.

Re:iPod (1)

FinalCut (555823) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141410)

I keep my 'wired remote" plugged in most of the time. Granted, not very useful for finding songs - but is great for quick volumne changes, skipping songs, etc. When walking (ie crossing the street) it may be a good option for you - it also effectively extends your headphone cord which, in some cases, my be a good thing.

Here's one to ponder - voting system for the blind (2, Interesting)

Dave21212 (256924) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141132)

My hope here is that some of you folks interested in this topic might have some insight on a related issue with the US voting systems.

I've been a spectator in a recent discussion regarding the best approach to delivering a secure voting system to the blind. It was an offshoot of some discussions on the current US voting systems, their serious shortcomings, and solutions. So far, I haven't read what any proposal that made much sense to me - they are all either extremely expensive (ie: everyone gets a special $3k reading wand) or otherwise highly impractical (ie: convoluted, multi-step, off-the-cuff type procedures to supposedly ensure a secure vote for the blind citizen).

I'm no expert in this area, and I want to understand it a bit better. Can anyone suggest a practical solution that could be reasonably implemented across the US ?

Re:Here's one to ponder - voting system for the bl (2, Interesting)

Takehiko (20798) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141214)

Print ballots in brail.

Re:Here's one to ponder - voting system for the bl (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141228)

Absentee ballots in braille?

Re:Here's one to ponder - voting system for the bl (1)

Aidtopia (667351) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141550)

Accessibility is a main selling point of the electronic voting machines that worry so many of us Slashdotters. They have screen readers, large fonts, high contrast, and support multiple languages. This is a good thing for those who need these features.

Of course, a system we could trust would be a good thing for everyone.

Re:Here's one to ponder - voting system for the bl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141572)

Print absentee ballots in braille ;)

how about Keyano? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141157)

My project at sourceforge is not *quite* ready for the blind yet, but its getting there. [] Keyano is only 14 days old but we already have nearly 200 downloads and are in the top 10% of projects at sourceforge.

Keyano does a number of things that could be used to aid the blind including a rare mix of Text to speech (using festival as a backend) the dict protocol for a handy reference, Alphabet mode (type into a text area as the letter names are said out loud) as well as a virtual keyboard onscreen so that keypress events can be custom set for the sampler.

I think keyano has alot of potential as an aid to the disabled members of our community even if it is seemingly just a "kids game" to the rest of us.

(karma free for your pleasure)



Pr0n? (-1, Flamebait)

g0hare (565322) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141163)

Now THAT'S a worthwhile project..........

mpio mp3 players (1)

genner (694963) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141205)

I have the fy200 series but there all similar basically just a difference in storage space between models. I can personally use mine with my eyes closed. It doesn't have many buttons and they all feel diffrent. The only question mark is the software used to load mp3's on to it, not sure how well it works with a screen reader. There's also unoffical software for linux that works on some models. Unfortunaetly mine isn't of them, so I have no idea how friendly it is.

The Screen Magnifiers Homepage (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141226)

The Screen Magnifiers Homepage [] has a nice listing of software available to visually impaired users. As a visually impaired person myself, I too wish there was some nice open sourced solution to help me out as commercial software is REALLY expensive.

I have tried ZoomText and it is excellent. I have also tried almost every freeware/non comercial screen magnification software listed at, but to be honest with you, none have even come close to being usable. Most of them offer no more functionality than the magnifyer bundled with Windows. I have not tried freeware/opensource screen readers, so I cannot comment on them. I would suspect that nothing would even come close to JAWS.

Regarding you friend's experience using Firefox with JAWS, I have run into several programs that wouldn't work with ZoomText. FireFox was one, Putty was another. The software could not track the cursor properly. These Programs seem to be mostly compatible with very popular software packages.

SSB Tech (1)

hende_jman (747347) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141272)

There's a small company called SSB Technologies [] in San Francisco that my brother used to work for that helps companies make their products accessible to people with disabilities (primarily those who are blind).

emacspeak (1)

The OPTiCIAN (8190) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141319)

Has anyone had good experience with emacspeak? It looks promising, but I've never been able to locate the software for it that actually turns words on the screen onto a voice when I've played around with setting it up. From memory it wasn't particularly easy to set up on the distribution I was trying for (debian).

Command Line is Best for Blind Users (2, Informative)

jefe289 (34351) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141345)

I've always thought this was so well put, it
inspired me to try it: unplug my monitor and go. []

It gets worse! (1)

3.09 a hour (812839) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141350)

My father is only partially blind, so the limited software for blind people goes doubly for him, since the software designed to enlarge the screen are all horribly written, and either take up half the screen , or bog the system down to unbelivable rates. As for JAWS, your friend must be a surfing GOD, because even with me looking at the screen with JAWS on the other day i couldnt get past yahoo! The really amazing part of this for me is with all of the software out there, you whould assume someone whould think to make something that zoomed what was under the cursor when you pressed mouse3.

Virtual Worlds for the blind (2, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141365)

If you give every object in the game a name, and you relate distance and time, you can quite easily turn a MMORPG into a text adventure that can be read. This is a primitive step towards artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence will have every real noun and verb in its dictionary, and create a virtual 3d world. Artificial Intelligence is a long way off, but wiring up a MMORPG to play in text mode could be done now if funded.
More on AI []

Hardware MP3 players (1)

htcdaisy (842126) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141370)

A good cheap hardware MP3 player that I came across for visual impaired users is the first generation Nomad Muvo [http] . It has no visual display and acts as a flash memory drive when you use it with Windows. This solves the problem of JAWS or other screen readers not being compatable with the software that is needed to transfer your MP3s file from your computer to your hardware MP3 player.

Another more expensive solution is the Book Port [] made by APH. It plays MP3 files and also has many different features that are great for people with print disablities such as text-to-speech so you can download text files to the device and have them read back to you.

Re:Hardware MP3 players (1)

htcdaisy (842126) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141440)

Sorry about the bad links. Nomad Muvo [] and Book Port []

Non-GUI UI (5, Insightful)

Cranston Snord (314056) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141379)

The thing that always gets me about computer technologies for the blind is that they seem to focus on providing a described graphical user interface for people who often have never seen anything in their lives. My grandmother went totally blind with macular degeneration (of the unfixable variety) over the past ten years. She doesn't want to learn windows. She doesn't want to learn a mac. She wants to send and recieve email. Explaining concepts like windows and how to use a mouse seem awfully stupid to me.

Building computers that focus on whole-system TTS interfaces via CLI apps seems to be a much better approach. Has anyone done anything like this that is explainable to a computer-illiterate blind grandmother?

Firefox & screen readers (1)

R4modulator (771354) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141404)

Ok, here's the scoop (I actually work on screen reader accessibility for Mozilla-based browsers).

Window-Eyes is currently a much better bet than JAWS for people interested in Mozilla. The current beta at mentions their Mozilla support. You have to download an alpha of Seamonkey (the classic suite) or a nightly of Firefox to get it to work. The suite is better for now, until we get some more front-end accessibility polishing underway for Firefox.

JAWS + Firefox compatibility should happen over the next year or so. It's not that Firefox doesn't support JAWS, but the other way around. For a good web browsing experience, screen readers have special navigation modes that need to be implemented per-browser. Currently JAWS uses IE-specific API's to implement their IE support, and no one wants to build compatibility with Mozilla using the same technique.

For more info on Mozilla-related accessibility, check out
There's info on all of our accessibility-related projects, plus info for screen reader and other assistive technology vendors who wish to develop compatibility with products based on Mozilla technologies. There's also a newsgroup and mailing list on there.

Re:Firefox & screen readers (1)

R4modulator (771354) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141665)

Whoops -- I forgot one thing. You can use the Window-Eyes 5 beta screen reader with Mozilla Seamkonkey (the clsasic suite), but it is not yet compatible with Firefox.

Games Accessibility Special Interest Group (1)

Sartian (248427) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141421)

I am a member of a small group that is dedicated to helping game developers provide better game accessibility features to their games. We recently wrote a whitepaper for game developers discussing the issues of game accessibility that can be found here: li ty_WhitePaper.pdf

The whitepaper discusses a number of topics including:

Definition: What is Game Accessibility?
Types of Disabilities and Limiting Conditions
Scope of the Problem
Why is Accessibility Important?
How Can we Provide Accessibility in Games? Possible Approaches
Modern Game Accessibility
Current State of Game Accessibility

The members of our group have experience with both game development and accessibility technologies so we do a lot of work to help 'bridge the gap' between the two subjects.

We are working to bring a number of resources together to help game developers and are happy to talk to companies interested in tackling this very important subject.

Our group webpage can be found here: ...and our group can be contacted directly using:

accessibility *AT* igda *DOT* org

Feel free to contact us regarding this issue and we'll do what we can to help. :)

-Michael McIntosh

ZoomText is better than JAWS (2, Interesting)

Zerbey (15536) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141441)

Unfortunately, it's not free either. A visually impared co-worker needed help finding free software and I couldn't not find any decent software that wasn't free. There are very few decent commercial products, either. This is a real shame because there's a lot of visually impared geeks out there who are crying out for decent software.

ZoomText is available from AI Squared [] and works great with Mozilla Firefox. Unfortunately at $395 the price tag is pretty hefty and there's no Linux version. Blind charities can usually sell the software at a discount, however.

The sysadmin in my CS dept is blind (4, Interesting)

Raunch (191457) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141455)

The sysadmin in my CS dept is blind, he uses linux exclusively, exept for telnetting into the solaris machines that he administers.

I have no idea what he uses, but he is completely blind. He has an audio output that reads what I assume is the output from the terminal at an incredible speed. I have never been able to understand what it is saying, but he is quick about the whole thing. Probably the fastest typist I know.

Re:The sysadmin in my CS dept is blind (1)

cryptochrome (303529) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141837)

Well seeing as how he can't use a GUI at all, there's no reason to work within a GUI interface. I'm sure it's CLI, just a single terminal window reading back to him like in the old days.

Personally I think methods for using severely limited interfaces is a very interesting subject, and not just for the blind. There are thousands of places where there's just no room/money for a screen or keyboard or mouse, but where you want sophisticated interaction anyway. Your phone, for instance. Standard phones have a mere 12 keys, a microphone, and a speaker. Slightly more sophisticated models have a small 1 or 2 line display. But then there's cellphones which are all fancy nowadays, and the phone company has all sorts of services like voice input and such.

Re:The sysadmin in my CS dept is blind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141864)

I don't understand what's the point of saying you know someone that can use this stuff if you don't provide us with any usefull information?

are you juste posting for bragging rights?

Emacspeak (2, Informative)

algae (2196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141465)

I'm kind of surprised nobody has brough up Emacspeak [] yet. Since Emacs is already a complete text-based replacement for everything anyone could ever want to do with a computer system, making it blind and visually-impaired accessable is a no-brainer.

Plus, it's written by the blind, for the blind, and is it's own development platform. Is there anyone out there using Emacspeak that would care to comment on it?

I can't see this coming to market (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11141471)

I kill me!

bright? (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141488)

Bright back-lighting may be helpful for him.

The iPod's backlight is bright!
I use it as a flashlight (seriously), and the first time I turned it on at night I had to scream "AAAH! MY EYES!" (because I'm a dramatic sort of fellow ;-)
Now I wisened up: I turn it on facing away from me so my pupils have time to adapt.

how about character-based linux on a speech synth? (2, Informative)

edgreenberg (835666) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141513)

In all the 46 comments I've read, nobody has mentioned package called Speakup. This is a set of kernel patches that enable Linux to output everything from boot messages on to a hardware synthesizer attached to a serial port. A version of Fedora that has these patches installed is available at [] With this software and a hardware synthesizer such as a Doubletalk (or 10 others), one can do just about anything supported at the command prompt including email and web (using lynx or another text browser). Unlike Jaws, it's open source, and unlike gnopernicus, it works pretty seamlessly. Some really awful websites that rely on javascript, flash, etc remain unaccessable, but there's an awful lot of surfing yet to be done this way.

Why is everyone perfect in game-world? (2, Interesting)

MonsoonDawn (795807) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141552)

It's really great that games like second-life can allow physically impaired people to "be on an equal playing field for once" But it would also be nice if these games offered people a choice of physical impairments. I might like to have a quadraplegic or deaf alter-ego but I can't do that in game-world.

CMS for blind people (1)

dracvl (541254) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141730)

Tooting my own horn here for a bit, but:

Plone [] has had excellent support for blind people for quite a while, and passes both the US Section 508 accessibility guidelines and the much stricter WAI-AA accessibility requirements.

I've seen several blind people use the CMS without problems, and it's quite a satisfying feeling to see that people can make use of your application even when they can't see it.

We regularly get thank-you e-mails from blind people that are extremely grateful for giving them a way to do online publishing and intranets. Web standards really matter more than you think - especially to these groups of people. (1)

sh0rtie (455432) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141758) []

written by a totally blind programmer (and you thought C++ and asm was hard)
not open source but dedication like that deserves some kind of cash reward and OSS wont pay the bills, so support him, his customers and the great work he does

Get a Digital Talking Book player... (1)

WarDancer (542700) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141784)

I work for a company VisuAide [] that specializes in software and hardware for the blind and visually impaired.

I would recommend to check one of the Victor Reader [] players we make. They are designed for the blind to read digital books. They can also read standard mp3 CDs. All butons have audio feedback, the messages are voice recorded (not TextToSpeech) and they are localized in many languages.

Of course this lets the blind person read books which are produced by the different libraries (depends on each country). Depending on the model chosen you have different options, like bookmarking, goto page, next/previous level (chapter or subchapter depends on the book)/page/phrase/ and other options are being added.

Anyway, if you are visually impaired on know someone who is, you should check out our products. Ina addition to the Victor Reader product line, we also have the Trekker [] , a GPS orientation system, and the Maestro [] an accessible handheld PC.

Jukebox Zen and the Audible format (1)

meshroom (842139) | more than 9 years ago | (#11141796)

Creative [] recently released a patch for their Zen series of HD MP3 players that will allow playback of the audible [] format for audio books.
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