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

  • From: "Ken Perry" <whistler@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 22 Dec 2010 09:16:24 -0500

You are wrong those of us who read Braille at a low level totally agree that
reading Braille would be nice.  What offends me though is people jumping the
shark and calling anyone who can't read a story or a menu fast enough to
order illiterate.  As I said in my first email I agree that Braille should
be taught in school and those who have the ability to learn at a young age
should but not knowing how to read Braille at a fast enough page to read
books is not an end all.  I don't feel robbed because I can't.  Whereas I
would feel robbed if I couldn't read text in the sighted world as a sighted
person.  It's a total different ball game.  You have signs in the sighted
world.  Braille signs are not only hard to find but when you find them
sometimes they are just stupid I found a Braille sign on a fire hydrant once
that said it was a fire hydrant.  You mentioned taking notes.  I have 3
devices that instantly turn on if I need them and can take notes not only
faster than I could with a brailler but I could search and call them up
faster.  For that matter one of the devices I edit notes on my server with
in almost any place because its 3G so do you carry those volumes of notes
around with you in Braille?  That would be a site.  All I am saying is I
agree that Braille is good to learn.  So that makes a middle ground I do not
agree that I lose greatly by not knowing how to read Braille at a level
where I can read books. 

I tell you what though.  I know a  person that I work with that still to
this day cannot use a computer.  He is trying to learn right now.  I find
him at a much larger disadvantage and he is a Braille expert.  He uses a
Braille note and has no idea of things he could do if he understood
technology.  I find him at a much larger disadvantage than I find myself.
You can't individually shop without getting help if you know only Braille
but you can if you know technology.  You can't create documents for the
sighted world if you know only Braille but you can with technology.  Braille
doesn't help you if you have to create those pill labels for other customers
but technology does.  I find that technology is a much more important tool
than Braille when interacting with the rest of the world.  Braille has made
it possible for the blind to get started and to self organize while
Technology has opened the world like nothing else has for blind people.  

Again I will finish this by saying I believe Braille should be taught but
it's time to stop telling our kids they are something less if they don't
read at the rate needed to read books in Braille.  They are not something
less they are something different.  Even the sighted world is starting to
have to come to terms with what the new technology age is bringing our kids
into.  It used to be you could not be a programmer in the sighted world if
you cannot learn a language.  Not so with programming languages like scratch
kids are learning to code visually.  When coding languages get to the point
where you can tell the computer what to do and it will do it and create an
application for others to use will they no longer be programmers.     No
they will be programmers in a different way.  We have to use the tools that
give us the best life style possible and Braille is only a very small
portion of that life style unless you have multiple disabilities.  


-----Original Message-----
From: programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Dale Leavens
Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 8:55 AM
To: programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical

But surely that is the point.

I too came to braille somewhat late and never was a really good braille 
reader nevertheless Janet and I have three braillers around here, I always 
had one on the corner of my desk at work for banging down notes or telephone

numbers, getting correct spellings for patient names and organizing lists 
for placing orders or any number of other things. Nothing like the random 
access to bits of information offered by written notes. We label things with

braille dymo tape, so convenient though we don't do it enough.

Computer voice has certainly sped some things up and much recreational 
reading I would never do without talking books.

Certainly one can get along without being able to read or write braille. 
remarkably large numbers of sighted people cannot read or write print 
adequately either and many function so well that people don't know they 
cannot. all that notwithstanding those who do not read braille adequately 
for function really cannot appreciate the value and benefit of braille 
literacy and those of us who do don't like to think of getting along without


Interestingly, neither has anyone ever asked me if I use braille when 
applying for work. Many make assumptions that I would use a dog guide or 
that a spouse drives me about or that I would be counting steps, I don't 
think those questions have much to do with what is required.

What computers have done for us more than anything else is add another 
channel of literacy of a sort for us. As with braille they give us a better 
random access to what we read than we had with tape and a currency we could 
never have with tape or braille and in some situations more instantly.

I don't know why this debate always seems to get defensive. It is like the 
dog/cane thing somehow there doesn't seem to be any neutral ground.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jamal Mazrui" <empower@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "Bob Kennedy" <intheshop@xxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 7:55 AM
Subject: Re: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical 

>I agree that braille is generally a valuable skill for a blind person to 
>have.  I think all rehab programs should include braille instruction, and 
>all blind kids should be taught braille at an early age. Unfortunately, I 
>have also concluded that it is extremely  difficult for someone to become 
>efficient in reading braille if he or she did not learn it as a young 
>child -- perhaps similar to the way that languages are much harder to reach

>fluency level when learned later in life.
> So, I read braille, but despite much practice during my late teens and 
> early 20s, (I lost my sight as a junior in high school), I never achieved 
> a speed that made it practical to use braille except for things like menus

> and labels.  I have met many blind adults who are similarly situated.  We 
> have to make the best of speech or other techniques besides braille.
> Jamal
> On 12/22/2010 4:18 AM, Bob Kennedy wrote:
>> Wow I didn't know there was so much passion for Braille.  Having gone 
>> blind
>> at age 12, I had to learn Braille, just later than most.  Never could 
>> read
>> fast and the careers I've had have left me with a small spot that is 
>> smaller
>> than a full Braille cell of sensitivity on one finger.
>> I've never had a problem finding work though, and no one has ever asked 
>> me
>> if I can read Braille as a part of a job interview.
>> No need for that when I built transmissions I guess.  I have been asked 
>> many
>> times about my computer skills since I've left the garage business but 
>> still
>> no concern for Braille.
>> I better hope it stays that way or I'll have to get the Think Green 
>> people
>> involved.  What is the ratio now?  Four pages of Braille to one of print?
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Sina Bahram"<sbahram@xxxxxxxxx>
>> To:<programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>> Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 10:40 PM
>> Subject: RE: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical
>> perspective
>> What Ken said.
>> Take care,
>> Sina
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>> [mailto:programmingblind-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Ken Perry
>> Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 12:44 PM
>> To: programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>> Subject: RE: Screen readers and how to develop them: A historical
>> perspective
>> 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.
>> Ken
>> 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.
>> Regards,
>> 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
>> methods
>>> (i.e. My unique way of Braille scrolling on the Braille+ and Icon) and
>>> I
>> can
>>> code games like Sudoku for the same devices.  I can also read labels
>>> but
>> if
>>> you give me a Braille book be ready to age before I finish a paragraph.
>> Now
>>> I realize if I would have learned Braille when I was young it would be
>> much
>>> faster but I have said all this to say this.
>>> The idea that someone is illiterate because they don't read Braille
>>> and
>> are
>>> 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
>> course
>>> is not really that accessible now that it's a windows app but when it
>>> was
>> a
>>> 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
>> I
>>> took Calculus I could and did do five page problems in my head.  My
>> teacher
>>> 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
>> do
>>> 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
>> test
>>> 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
>> and
>>> 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
>> correct
>>> 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
>> on
>>> paper and now one I do everything in my head or on a computer.  I find
>> using
>>> my brain a much better exercise than writing everything down.  I call
>> paper
>>> whether it be sighted paper or Braille a disability in itself.  I
>>> don't
>> whip
>>> out a book to take down a phone number I either remember it or poke it
>> into
>>> 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
>> lose
>>> 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
>> she
>>> listens because her mind can both listen to what she is reading and
>>> assimilate the information without having to do the work of actually
>> reading
>>> the text and if you think that doesn't make a difference again I think
>> some
>>> 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!
>> My
>>>> 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
>> 1981.
>>>>>> 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
>> three
>>>>>> 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
>> buy
>>>>>> a
>>>>>> $300 Type 'n Talk instead of a $5,000 talking terminal to speak the
>> data
>>>>>> 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
>> of
>>>>>> 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
>> Midence
>>>>>> 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
>> readers
>>>>>> 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
>> came
>>>>>> 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
>> and
>>>>>> 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
>> that
>>>>>> 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
>>>>>> __________
>>>>>> View the list's information and change your settings at
>>>>> __________
>>>>> View the list's information and change your settings at
>>>> __________
>>>> View the list's information and change your settings at
>>> __________
>>> View the list's information and change your settings at
>>> __________
>>> View the list's information and change your settings at
>> __________
>> View the list's information and change your settings at
>> __________
>> View the list's information and change your settings at
>> __________
>> View the list's information and change your settings at
>> __________
>> View the list's information and change your settings at
> __________
> View the list's information and change your settings at 

View the list's information and change your settings at

View the list's information and change your settings at

Other related posts: