In our continuing pursuit of the best platform for delivering accessible games and tools to people with disabilities we are now focusing on Firefox to see what we can accomplish from inside the browser. Up until recently, we've used Python. Its a great language and we've delivered thousands of copies of our apps to people all over the world but I kept thinking we could do better. For example, the ability to author games in Hark the Sound has enabled teachers to do things we never imagined but sharing games is so complicated that is almost never happens. In contrast, the exciting response we've seen to Tar Heel Reader with 419 books in 3 languages after just 10 weeks online has convinced me that browser-based apps can have a big place in our work.
Firefox is a nearly perfect platform; it runs everywhere we want to be and it is easy to program but it has a few deficiencies that limit what we can do. Many of our users are blind or visually impaired. For these kids, speech and sound are a must. Speech and sound are important for kids who can see as well. For example, many beginning readers benefit from having text read to them. Unfortunately, sound in the browser gets little respect.
We used SoundManager2 with a web-based text-to-speech server in Tar Heel Reader. It works well enough but the delays associated with fetching speech as mp3s over the web and the requirement to be online to get speech look bad in comparison locally hosted program.
I'm excited about offering Firefox with speech and sound to my students to see what amazing things they'll think of doing. How about self-voicing web pages and maps? How about books with interactive, switch-accessible games embedded?
This initial version is likely buggy on at least one of the three operating systems we're supporting. Please give it a try. Or better yet, download the source, and help us make it better.
Also, help us get it out of the sandbox at Mozilla Addons by trying and commenting on it.