[bct] Re: Curious about Apple computers

  • From: Buddy Brannan <buddy@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2006 17:54:40 -0500

On Mar 4, 2006, at 4:04 PM, Daveed Mandell wrote:

From what I hear, from one of the developers of OUtspoken, that is, when it was taken over by Alva Access Group, Voice Over is not really an acceptable screen reader yet, although it is better than MicroSoft Narrator. But a blind computer specialist named Dean Hudson was just hired by Apple, and some of us think Voice Over could become a very fine screen reader indeed. Right now, however, it's still rather raw around the edges, so I'm told.

Well...takee what you were told with a bit of perspective, and don't believe everything you're told 100%. :-)

What you were told is true as far as it goes, but it fails to consider several key points:

1) Voiceover was just introduced as a mainstream product less than a year ago. Compared to its more expensive Gatesware counterparts (and really, a Windows screen reader and Voiceover aren't even analogous, a topic for another discussion), Voiceover is more stable and works more reliably than the Gatesware screen readers which were out for around the same amount of time. It wasn't for quite some time that one couldn't get "serious" work done with Windows, and at a considerable cost as compared to just Windows.

2) As I said, Voiceover doesn't work the same way a traditional screen reader does. In other words, it doesn't get its information in the same way.

3) If you are going to compare Voiceover in any meaningful way, you have to understand that the Mac isn't Windows, and Voiceover isn't JFW/Window-Eyes. To get to using the Mac requires a bit of a learning curve, in which you must forget, or at least set aside, what you think you know and learn from the beginning, as though you don't know anything. It's pointless to ask if Voiceover has X or Y freature that another scree reader has; more important is to ask if X or Y task can be done with it. While It's true that the key commands sound a bit complex with having to use some perhaps odd combinations, they're not all that bad in practice. Besides, where there are dozens and dozens of commands you need to know in order to effectively use Windows, there are a relative few you need to learn in order to be effective with Voiceover.

One advantage Voiceover has is that you interact with your computer in a similar fashion to the way a sighted person does. There's a bare minimum of blindy customizations you have between you and the applications. The advantage here is that it's easy for a person who maybe isn't so technically inclined to discuss the operation of a piece of software with a sighted person and both of them speak closer to the same language with a real minimum in translating from sighted mouseyspeak into blindy screen reader speak.

Is Voicceover perfect/ Not hardly. Could it use a lot of improvement (especially in the way of more widespread application support)? Undoubtedly. But as it stands, I do actually manage to get productive work done with my Mac, including Email, as I'm doing now.

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