Sunday, 21 September 2008

On Friday in London, I attended a conference entitled “Scripting Enabled” which in advance was described to me as a hackers’ day. So this was about good hackers lending their skills to the disabled community, hurrying up the process of accessibility and inclusion.. Scripting Enabled is the vision and brain-child of Christian Heilmann , a developer evangelist with lots to contribute. Its well worth searching on Scripting Enabled at and following the story as it will unfold.

The morning session was all about the very diverse needs of various disability groups. People with learning disabilities might need pictures where we blind users need words. Christian has developed an excellent Easy YouTube video player with big buttons, clear colours and built-in keyboard accessibility which just works out of the box. It really is the easiest way to enjoy the YouTube experience and there must be something for us all there.

After the break, AbilityNet presented videos showing people with vision disabilities struggling with JAWS and ZoomText and I was left smugly thinking how much easier is the web with WebbIE which works with all screenreaders, free or expensive and offers magnification as well as the speech. But I very much took to their approach of open evaluation and user-lead opinions and experiences. This is something we at need to take on board now.

The afternoon was not so good for me as I am not up there with the Techy JAWS brigade and, sadly I had to miss the panel session at the end. I can’t cover more in a short blog but try and particularly to dig deeper.

There really now is a shift of emphasis within the Assistive Technology industry compared to when we set up two years ago. The market leader remains for blind and VI users but the pack are coming closer and freedom is better understood in terms of usability and user limited cash flow rather than being merely scientific. Though not cheap, Guide is there for the older population with poorer memories; NVDA from Australia,, is chasing Thunder and each have their strengths and weakness, no doubt. At least for free you can enjoy the benefits of both or either.

And today I heard of another free player from the States which sounds great but which I have not tried yet. At you can read about Adept1 which has received pretty massive Government developing backing in the States and which claims to offer Voice Input and voice output access to much of what the non-techy computer user might need. The software will be free, like ours. Nice to know we had a great idea like others.

The vision, so far as we are concerned, is nearer to reality and we welcome competition and or cooperation in this field. We will not hesitate to continue to develop and promote Thunder and WebbIE and speak openly about its ease of use as well as what it can’t currently achieve; but full marks to all others with a similar vision and mission.

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