RE: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical perspective

  • From: "Ken Perry" <whistler@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 21 Dec 2010 12:44:12 -0500

You said ,
"Take away your tech, your electricity, your computer, your gadgets,
your willing friends to read to you, hand you a greeting card from a
friend, a recipe, a medicine bottle with a braille label on it, and
what happens?  Go to a nice restaurant with a sighted friend, have the
waiter hand you a braille menu which they have gone to the trouble and
expense of providing you, have that friend step away to go to the
restroom, the waiter approach you and ask:  "What will you have
today?"  What happens?  "Sorry, can you read me your menu?  I can't
read this."  Litterate or illiterate?  You tell me."

You assume a lot of things in the above.  I have been blind 20 years and got
one Braille Christmas card,  I have only recently started seeing any Braille
menus.  If you took the tech from most sighted people they would be lost as
well.  I have never got one bottle of pills with a Braille label.  Most of
the Pill bottles I get come with barcodes though and read fine.  As for
Cards  my son and daughter have given me audible ones.  Hell I got one this
year with actual letters I could feel true this is like brailed so don't
really count.  The point is Tech is here to stay and if it went away then
maybe it would be worth me gaining speed with Braille.  It is like saying
you don't know how to ride a horse so you won't be able to travel more than
20 to 40  miles  a day because you will have to walk if you don't have a
car.  .  When I want to read a menu I download one and I do that on my
Braille plus and or Iphone both.  I actually take pictures of menu on  my
IPhone and read it that way many times.  I am sorry but my brother has
started going to restaurants in Atlanta only if they have online menus does
that make him illiterate? Kids in college now couldn't do Calculus if you
took their calculator away but I could does that make them lost in the world
of business  because they use a tool?  

I never said that my way I s the best way.  What I said is to call them
illiterate is asinine.  If they can write and read and spell they are
literate.  You might not call them fully self sufficient but I would argue
that until every written word is in Braille then no blind person is self
sufficient when it comes to reading but then it looks like Google will fix
access to text long before paper Braille ever catches up. 


The funny thing is you say take your tech away and yet what you were talking
about originally is reading with a Braille display.   

Find yourself in a place with no new batteries for your machines, no
power, access to a PC ETC.  Hand you a slate and stylus or, heck, just
a sharp pin and some paper.  Instruct you to leave a note for a friend
that you stepped out for an hour and will be back, and what happens?

Take pride in your abilities, do.  Even boast about how well your
memory works, your accomplishments in programming, your mathematical
prowess, whatever you like but, don't tell me there is no value in
reading and that implying that if some can't actually interact
directly with text for themselves, know that letters on that page are
forming themselves into words and so forth, that this is an assinine
thing to say.  For one thing, it's rude, discourteous, ETC. for
another, it's not true.  Do as many studies as you like, ask as many
people as you like, whatever.  You are not illiterate because you
learned to read and write as a child.  You used print.  You have some
knowledge of braille.  If you can't do grade II, it is probably
because you chose to deny yourself this skill.  If you can learn
computer code, you can learn braille code be it Nemeth, computer
braille, musical notation, whatever you like.  If you can learn
alternate keyboards, you can train your mind to learn the feel of
different symbols.  The only reason you couldn't is if your sense of
touch is not working for some reason.  In spite of this, the fact that
you were taught your letters and how to read and write them as a child
and learned them makes you literate.  You just haven't fully
transferred those skills to another medium because you chose to rely
on tech instead of putting forth the time and effort it took to master
them.  There are those who never really truly learn their letters
unless they are the ones doing the writing, output, not input.  Their
knowledge of letters is more akin to their ability to put words
together in a spoken sentence.  They know how to type out letters on a
computer keyboard to get the computer to say what they want.  A lot of
them write ate when they mean eight, break when they mean brake,
speach when they mean speech and so forth because the computer speaks
them out just the same and their mind never skips a beat when they
hear it spoken and when their friends hear them spoken from a screen
reader.  They can write, they can not read.  ugly?  Unyielding?  Yes,
the world often is.  Yes.  Uncomfortable?  You tell me.  Fact?
Absolutely.  It is immutable, uncontradictable, inarguable.

Sorry about the rant.  I will stop since this has gotten off topic.
It was never my intent to offend anyone.

Alex M

On 12/21/10, Ken Perry <whistler@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Well I agree that Braille should be taught and is good to know.  I have to
> put my 3 cents in.  I went blind at 20 and in my now 20 years of being
> blind,  I have only been able to learn to read Braille to the see dick run
> levels.  That means I read enough to be able to code Braille output
> (i.e. My unique way of Braille scrolling on the Braille+ and Icon) and I
> code games like Sudoku for the same devices.  I can also read labels but
> you give me a Braille book be ready to age before I finish a paragraph.
> I realize if I would have learned Braille when I was young it would be
> faster but I have said all this to say this.
> The idea that someone is illiterate because they don't read Braille and
> totally blind is just stupid and asinine.  I have Taken High level  math
> classes with no Knowledge of nemeth,  True I would not have had to use a
> reader if I knew nemeth then but I also could have done it alone if they
> would have let me use the tools I can use for example I could do all my
> calculus by hand with my Calculator/ worksheet called xplore.  It  of
> is not really that accessible now that it's a windows app but when it was
> dos app it was awesome for doing math by hand on the computer.  Yes the
> computer did some of the work when I wanted it to but hell seen a sighted
> person take calculus without an hp48 in hand lately?  Now I will say when
> took Calculus I could and did do five page problems in my head.  My
> actually insisted I do this for him once because he thought my reader was
> doing the math.  Little did he know I did the stuff better than he could
> on paper in my head.  I definitely couldn't do that now but back then I
> could.  Ask Sina I am sure he has that same ability.
> Now you say there is a difference from reading something by hand to
> listening to it?  Hell yeah the thing don't always pronounce things right
> and you can read a hell of a lot faster and retain more when listening.
> Doubt me?  Test me against anyone who can read Braille at what would be
> considered 100% give us 10 books to read in the same amount of time and
> us on it.  True this would really need to be done in a large group to make
> sure the people involved just were not stupid but I will guarantee the
> person listening to the text will retain more.
> You say yes but what about graphics and table.  Um sorry but getting
> graphics and tables into Braille still takes translation of information
> you will lose something there as well.  I actually found my Calculus books
> on tape from RFBD very well read and well described in fact the guy
> the text book like 3 times that I remember while describing the graphics.
> Note I have lived in both worlds a world where I had to read and do math
> paper and now one I do everything in my head or on a computer.  I find
> my brain a much better exercise than writing everything down.  I call
> whether it be sighted paper or Braille a disability in itself.  I don't
> out a book to take down a phone number I either remember it or poke it
> my phone.  Most of the time I remember it just because that works for me.
> Now am I saying people don't need to learn Braille no.  As I started out I
> think people should learn Braille  from the beginning and even if they
> their site it's a useful tool but I fully disagree that a person is
> illiterate just because he or she cannot read Braille well.
> I want to end by saying my wife who has a Kendil, and and IPad still loves
> to listen to Audible books and find she gets more out of the books when
> listens because her mind can both listen to what she is reading and
> assimilate the information without having to do the work of actually
> the text and if you think that doesn't make a difference again I think
> studies should be done.
> Ken
> -----Original Message-----
> From: programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> [mailto:programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Alex Midence
> Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 9:14 AM
> To: programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: Re: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical
> perspective
> Hi, Don,
> For someone like you, braille isn't a viable solution.  Your case is
> special and understandable.  You can't read braille unless you can
> feel your way across a line.  About the most sensitive organ remaining
> to you short of your tongue for this purpose is probably the tip of
> your nose and, that would be ... well ... Let's just say that audio
> tech is a wonderful thing.  We can't have folks giggling at us when we
> read, you know.  =)  I'm talking about kids who grew up blind and have
> two perfectly functioning index fingers (never could read with my
> pinky, can anyone?) and a mind to go with them.  They should be able
> to use both braille and audio to good effect.
> alex M
> On 12/20/10, Don Marang <donald.marang@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>> My older sister was upset at me because I was unable to learn braille!
>> remaining fingers are just too insensitive now from nerve damage and
> endless
>> blood tests.  She has been a teacher at a blind school for at least 20
> years
>> and is a huge advocate for braille litercy.  She even reads braille while
>> she is driving!
>> Don Marang
>> There is just so much stuff in the world that, to me, is devoid of any
> real
>> substance, value, and content that I just try to make sure that I am
> working
>> on things that matter.
>> Dean Kamen
>> --------------------------------------------------
>> From: "Alex Midence" <alex.midence@xxxxxxxxx>
>> Sent: Monday, December 20, 2010 6:03 PM
>> To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>> Subject: Re: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical
>> perspective
>>> Glad you liked it.  I was hoping someone on this list would have
>>> personal recollections of this time and the tech available.  Neat how
>>> there was braille output as far back as the 50's.  It's a shame that
>>> that stuff is stil as expensive as it is.  Perhaps, some day, as
>>> happened with speech technology, blind people will see the price of a
>>> braille display drop to something affordable as in, under a thousand
>>> dollars?  Same for a braille printer/embosser.  I am enormously
>>> concerned at how many of the blind kids I have met recently have poor
>>> braille reading skils and don't really seem to care that they are
>>> bordering on illiteracy.  Having something or someone read to you is
>>> not the same as direct input from a written document to your mind
>>> without an intermediary.  In this age of electronic texts, you would
>>> think that braille would explode in popularity since you no longer
>>> have to fill a room with tomes of the stuff.
>>> Alex M
>>> On 12/20/10, Rasmussen, Lloyd <lras@xxxxxxx> wrote:
>>>> That was fascinating.  Dr. Stoffel worked at NIH for a period after he
>>>> wrote
>>>> that article.  I could go on and on about this ancient technology, but
>>>> had
>>>> better do it off-list.
>>>> People had produced braille from computers since the 50's.  The first
>>>> speech
>>>> for a blind computer user was for Jim Willows, an engineer  at the
>>>> Lawrence-Livermore Laboratories in 1968 (letters and numbers played out
>>>> through a digital-to-analog converter).
>>>> The context of this article ...  Votrax devices had been on the market
>>>> for
>>>> several years, but the SC-01 chip was put into the Type 'n Talk in
>>>> This device had built-in letter-to-sound rules, so you didn't have to
>>>> send
>>>> phonemes to it as you did the earlier V S A and VSB boards.  These
>>>> devices took RS-232 data and either acted like terminals or interpreted
>>>> terminal sequences and sent the data along through another serial port
> to
>>>> be
>>>> displayed.  They were not screen readers running on the computer whose
>>>> screen was being read.  It was revolutionary to think that you could
>>>> a
>>>> $300 Type 'n Talk instead of a $5,000 talking terminal to speak the
>>>> coming from an RS-232 device.  The Echo II synthesizer (using the T I
>>>> technology) was added to the Apple II at about this time.  By the end
>>>> 1983 there were screen readers for the Apple II and for the IBM PC.
>>>> I worked a little bit with the FSST-3 and the VERT terminal, and heard
>>>> Deane
>>>> Blazie demonstrate the TotalTalk at various conventions.
>>>> Lloyd Rasmussen, Senior Project Engineer
>>>> National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
>>>> Library of Congress   202-707-0535
>>>> The preceding opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those
> of
>>>> the Library of Congress, NLS.
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>> From: programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>>>> [mailto:programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Alex
>>>> Sent: Monday, December 20, 2010 3:24 PM
>>>> To: programmingblind
>>>> Subject: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical
> perspective
>>>> Hi, all..
>>>> I thought this was rather interesting.  It is an article written in
>>>> 1982 about some of the techniques used back then to write screne
>>>> or
>>>> "talking terminals" as they called them.  I was struck by some of the
>>>> predictions the author made with regard to the future, some of wich
>>>> true and others which did not.  There was also a very interesting
> section
>>>> on
>>>> speech synthesis and how to get the hardware and software to do many of
>>>> the
>>>> things we take for granted nowadays like starting and stopping speech,
>>>> repeating previously spoken text, deciding what to say as an acronym
>>>> what to speak as a word, punctuation levels and so forth.  It was
>>>> fascinating stuff.
> kingterminals.html
>>>> Oh yeah, and get a load of the prices for that stuff!  Keep in mind
>>>> was
>>>> in 1980's money too.  Put like a 33% markup on it and you might
>>>> approximate
>>>> what it would cost in today's money.
>>>> Alex M
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