Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Blind Observations - Screen Reader

Burr it’s cold! Yes, I know I spelled that like the name Burr, but if I put brrr, my screen reader can’t pronounce it, he just says the letters. He can be such an idiot sometimes! Screen readers are awesome though, obviously I wouldn't be able to use the computer at all without one. But sometimes I have to get a little creative in order to get my screen reader to say or pronounce something the way I want him to.

An interesting example of this came up a few weeks ago. My cousin, Howie, left a comment on one of my blogs. My screen reader pronounced the name like hoe-ee and I was like “who is this hoe-ee person?” Luckily, he said something in his comment that clued me in to who it was. If I want my screen reader to pronounce the name correctly, I have to type it like how-ee.

Okay, call me a liar. I just read that last paragraph, and my screen reader pronounced Howie correctly. I used to use a reader called JAWS and evidently that was the one that pronounced it wrong. I use a different reader now, called System Access To Go. I’ve learned that not all screen readers use the same pronunciations.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you may have noticed that I use a lot of commas. I do that because it creates natural breaks in the sentences. When my reader comes to a comma, he takes a short pause, and it makes the reading sound more natural and not quite so mechanical.

Hmmm, now I’m getting frustrated. After that last paragraph, I stopped for a while, and just came back. Now SA To Go is not announcing the punctuation. It was working fine a little while ago. I need to try restarting the system to see if it comes back. Don’t go away.

Well, that didn’t work. I guess I’ll have to play with the settings.

Anyway, screen readers allow you to type by announcing each key as you press it. I was a pretty good typist before I went blind, so that makes it a lot easier for me. To proofread what I have typed, I just let the program read it back to me. Typos or misspellings will be evident by the way it pronounces the words, but I have to listen very closely because some errors don’t stand out as much. Errors in punctuation can be tricky to find. Sometimes I miss the space bar in between words so the two words run together. Those can be hard to find as well

Browsing the internet is a whole other thing. Now that I’ve had some practice, I can navigate most web pages without too much trouble, but of course it’s a lot different than reading a page with your own eyes. For instance, if I want to read some news articles, I can’t just scan through them, I have to read them straight through. That’s not so bad, but if I want to go bak to that article to find an important fact, I have to read through the whole thing again until I come across it. And once in a while I come across web pages that just don’t work well with a screen reader. Pages that have a lot of clutter, or fancy features, are difficult to navigate. NFL.com is a tough one, and so is Facebook. They just have so much junk on them that it’s hard to find what I want.

When you think about it, a screen reader is to a blind person what a weelchair is to a person that can’t walk. The wheelchair gives the handicapped person a lot more mobility and independence than he or she had before, but they still have to rely on people to make their homes or businesses wheelchair accessible.

So, that’s a little bit about screen readers. I could probably go on and on about it, but that’s the general idea. Sometimes I’m tempted to complain about the things my screen reader can’t do, but I have to stop and remind myself how lucky I am to have it at all. I guess that pretty much sums it up for all of us, doesn’t it? It’s so easy to take things for granted, until we lose them. So remember to be thankful for everything you have!

Deuteronomy 28:2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.


  1. Alex says brrr silly too. I should go in and tell him how to pronounce it. Does System Access have a pronunciation editor? Alex does, and I know Jaws does. I've gone in for several words or names and entered in how I want it pronounced when encountered. Just makes my life a whole lot easier. Also, have you tried www.m.facebook.com? That's what I use, and I like it a lot better. You don't get all the fluff that you get with the main site. It's pretty much just cut and dry.

  2. And just think, when a typo happens like jnoi, and another person has a screen reader, you're forever known as jnoi! LOL (kidding Ro) :-)

    So, do you two ever try to misspell words just to see what the screen reader will say?

    I already know, Stormcrow uses it for some more of the colorful words of our lovely language. :P
    Have fun! Life is too short to worry about the have nots!!!

    joni :-)

  3. When I first got Alex, people wanted to hear him swear. So I would oblige lol. It definitely sounds funny when you first hear it lol. I had too much fun discovering fun words, like croissant, which he says perfectly, and meow, which is too cute. Also, sayings like mmm and hmmm and shhh are actually said perfectly, which makes my wonder why brrr isn't. I stumbled upon wassup once, and it cracked me up, because he used to pronounce it wah sup and then after an update, he suddenly said it all ghetto style lol!

  4. SA To Go is a free program anyone can access via the web at www.satogo.com and as far as I can tell, there is no pronunciation editor. I never used the one in JAWS anyway so it's no big deal. They told me JAWS can cost up to $1200 per license and that blows my mind when there is a comparable program that's completely free.

  5. Yes. It's rediculously expensive. Window Eyes is pricey too. I've heard of System Access but not a lot about it. Does it seem to do as much as Jaws? You should hear some of the discussions I've had on email lists about the price of Jaws and Window Eyes lol!

  6. SATG works as well as JAWS and most of the commands are the same. For instance, they both use H to skip through headings, but with SATG you can use shift H to go backwards, JAWS doesn't do that. I realize that's a small thing, but I have really come to like SATG.