Wednesday, 22 July 2009

IT and Accessit July 2009

Roger Wilson-Hinds

I am replying to a June AccessIT article, reprinted from Braille Monitor which compared four low cost screenreader software talking packages.

I am responsible for distributing the thunder screenreader software round the world so at first I was cross and very disappointed. Thunder got short shrift. Rated the poorest Low cost screenreader.

My first reaction was to get on the phone and scream and shout about the inaccuracies and the briefness of the Thunder description. But at nearly seventy, I had the wisdom to engage brain before opening my big mouth. So how could such misinformation come to be in a professionally produced and widely respected specialist Braille magazine?

My granddaughter gave me the hint when I showed her the magazine I was reading. It was the cover. “What are floppy disks and what was life like before the internet? This was the drift of the discussion.

Don’t get me wrong. I love reading a Braille magazine on the train and there is no criticism implied or intended. But follow two chains of events:

The June article was written some time ago by a professional team well briefed in accessibility issues. It would then be approved and published and time marched on. Permissions were sought by RNIB and granted and the same article was reprinted in Braille and time marched on. I did not get round to reading the magazine until late July.

Now consider the second chain of events. I read the article on 22 July and am furious. I write this article on 22nd July and immediately pop it up as a blog on my company website also on 22nd July. I ask for it to be published as my right of reply on the same day and it may or may not get into the Braille magazine until September or possibly October, depending on the level of suitable material coming in to the Editor and it might not, of course, be deemed suitable anyway.

What my grand daughter does at the age of ten when she wants some information is to Google it. There is no waiting for her and her mates. So if readers want information about Thunder or much else for that matter, they should Google it and get the latest there is.

So now to the point: If you care to Google “screenreader” you will indeed find once or twice in the first five results. You will see clearly that Thunder is totally free to everyone, individuals and organisations. You will see that it comes in three forms: An installation .exe file so you can put it on your PC or laptop within a couple of minutes. There is a zipped file so you can copy it over to media, a pen drive, a disk or a card and run it on any modern Windows PC or laptop running XP or Vista, or very soon, Windows7 too. And there is also an MSI version for techies wanting Thunder on the college or school network etc.

We do indeed use WebbIE as our text browser and many people find WebbIE a most useful way to enjoy the internet and gather information quickly. But it does not suit everyone and we are working currently on an innovative way to get the best out of Internet Explorer 8. If you want an alternative browser such as Firefox, then Google NVDA and you will get to a pretty good option.

Thunder gives access to many Windows applications: MS Word, Outlook Express, Outlook, Notepad, Wordpad, Calc, LastFM, BBC iPlayer, and I could go on and on. If you find something you need access to, by all means ask us to create a script to make it work and we will do our best.

There is a moral to this story and I think it is about moving with the times and not doing things the way we used to in the dark ages of five years ago. Braille mags have their place and long should continue. What they can’t do is give you, the reader, the very latest information and they do you a disservice by conveying old hat stuff. I stress my commitment to Braille magazines and enjoy reading AccessIT.

Roger and Margaret Wilson-Hinds run from their home in Peterborough. They supply a range of low cost and no cost products including free Thunder, the Lightning magnifier software package, a range of electronic magnifiers and a scanning software package. The company has over one hundred thousand users worldwide and is committed to serving the needs of those not able to afford commercially priced screenreader products.

Contact Details:
E: roger”
T: 01733 234441
Blogs at


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