Enabling Technology


Jason’s notes on Pete’s talk.

Contact information for Peter Parente: pparent@us.ibm.com

Linux Screen Reader:

The term “screen reader” was coined by IBM in 1986. It referred to a software program that reads whats on the screen for an individual who cannot see the screen. The term is a bit of a misnomer today however, and can be more appropriately defined as an access engine for providing an alternative interface to existing software programs.

Who needs to use a screen reader?

- 10 million people with visual impairments

– 1.8 million people with learning disabilities

– 800 thousand switch users

– 101.5 million commuters

– 10 million mobile “surfers”

Current solutions:

- JAWS screen reader

– Clique audio display prototype

Current trends in screen reading:

- At least one screen reader for every major platform

– User base is blind and visually impaired only

– Most are commercial, $800 per user per version

– Development focuses on application compatibility

Linux Screen Reader:

- Seventh screen reader system developed at IBM

– Open source for the Linux GNOME desktop

– Relies on a platform accessibility architecture

– Designed for extensibility and modification

– Roughly nine months into development

– Written in Python

Initial goals:

- Non-visual access to applications out-of-the-box

– Improved usability via cascading scripts

– Application and interface agnostic

– Access to the “Big Three”: Firefox, Eclipse, and OpenOffice

Long term goals:

- Deployment inside IBM

– Inclusion in major Linux distros

– Access to the entire GNOME desktop

– Support for users with other disabilities

– Community feedback and contributions