Sunday, 18 February 2007

For the past few months, I genuinely thought we were the only people in the free screenreader software market for blind people. But not so. I have come across an Australian organisation who have developed something a bit like our Thunder. Mike Curran and his colleagues have set up a website, to deliver NVDA talking software as a download and eSpeak as a synthetic voice, both free. The code is open source and the Alpha version already performs pretty well if a little sluggishly. Its great to know we are not alone in our thinking and I hope we will be able to learn from each other and spark innovations and improvements together which will only benefit blind users.

Here in the UK,, another free software package has made massive strides over the past few months and is very usable by blind people. SpeakOn comes as a free gift from Professor Isaac Porat from the University of Manchester. This very gifted man, who lost his sight relatively recently, has built a speech audio system to make it very easy to listen to DAISY and Audio books, internet radio stations and your CD collection. Its all done from the Numeric Keypad and, once you have got the idea, the same keystrokes work for you in all circumstances. You actually don’t even need a screenreader. To read a book or listen to a podcast, you could have the laptop nearby but sit in the armchair with an infra-red keypad in your hand and be in total control. Bliss!!!

Having got the scent for free software, I have been busy on the internet and there is lots more out there to be discovered. You don’t have to be ripped off by the commercial people if you are short of money. If you can afford the costly stuff, that’s great of course. But if our blindness charities are hell-bent on selling expensive solutions to bolster their incomes or whatever, who is going to look after the interests of the majority on low income? Well we are for starters. So stay in touch with but give us time.

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