A question on Screen Reader Speed Standards

  • From: Andreas Stefik <stefika@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 9 Dec 2009 11:26:55 -0600

Hi folks,

I'm working right now on trying to build up our cross platform speech
engines for the Sappy project and am trying, specifically, to get NetBeans
to store custom preferences related to screen reader speed. On Mac, we
basically just pass a flag to the TTS engine with a number, which, I
suspect, is words per minute, although I'm not completely sure. On PC,
things appear to be quite different and I'm not sure about all of the open
source, and other, solutions out there (insert your favorite technology

My question is, what would people suggest for standardizing the numbers for
speed of reading we use for screen readers across all platforms? For
example, does each screen reader everywhere measure speed in a different
way? Should just put everything in words per minute and not worry about it,
translating any screen reader that doesn't comply through some kind of
calculation (if possible?)? Should we just standardize through some
arbitrary metric, like 0 is the slowest and 1 is the fastest, then test
everywhere to make sure those settings are "reasonable" and that the user's
system preferences are not disturbed?

To be clear, remember that our tool has to, ultimately, be compatible with
every kind of screen reader, and should still work for the blind even if no
screen reader is present (or if the screen reader doesn't work well at all).
That's why I am asking,

Thoughts are welcome,


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