Re: Some Fantastic News for the Blind Programmer Community

  • From: Andreas Stefik <stefika@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 15 Dec 2009 13:16:57 -0600


You bring up an excellent point that me, and the rest of the team, have been
thinking about carefully. The grant we're working on only has us
distributing tools to K-12 schools, however, we ideally want these tools to
work for the broadest number of users possible, including those in community

This is why, a few months ago, I decided to split the project into what are
called externally chained NetBeans modules, which basically means that we
have two products. Product 1, Sappy, is a tool that very generally makes
NetBeans more accessible to the blind, and believe it or not, we're actually
far enough along that we're doing some user testing. It's very exciting.

Second, is our tool Sodbeans, which includes a custom compiler, debugger,
and tons of other tools. Sodbeans is massively more accessible than Sappy,
but only works for our one, custom, programming language for very, very
complicated technical reasons. So, in short, we're going to be distributing
Sappy to everyone, but we'll be using Sodbeans in the K-12 schools.

And the best part, we "think," is that by doing it this way, we hope to be
able to allow other institutions that want to have some blind support to
basically be able to just download Sappy and let people get started in any
language supported by NetBeans, which is quite a few nowadays. They won't
get all of the accessibility enhancements that Sodbeans provides, but it
should work for a broad swathe of users in a broad swathe of programming
languages, which is what you really need at the college level. And it is
much better than NetBeans out of the box, especially on Mac OS X, where
NetBeans, through no fault of the folks at Sun, has serious accessibility

So the short answer is that we definitely want to help the broadest number
of people possible. Our current tech isn't a perfect solution to that, but
it's getting better everyday and colleges could realistically import our
modules into NetBeans right now and it would still be a huge step up in
terms of accessibility if they have blind students, and we haven't even gone
alpha yet!

And of course, everything we are doing is open source and 100% free on
sourceforge, so we welcome new contributions, patches, or anything else
people want to contribute.

If you are interested in contributing to getting a college level version of
Sappy inthane, we'd be happy to get you hooked up. We have a bigger, and
growing, development team and we can always use more sets of eyeballs.

Andreas Stefik, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Computer Science
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

On Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 2:48 AM, The Elf <inthaneelf@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

>  Andreas,
> a note, I don't know if your abilities will be able to do anything with or
> about this, but a number of blind programmers and other computer specialists
> are trained at local colleges especially, but also at universities, when and
> where they can get the instructors to work with them, which in my
> experiences at Santa Ana college in orange county, city of Santa
> Ana, California.  was quite good, as good as they could make them for me,
> though lack of accessible tools did hinder me several times.
> availability to such organizations would be phenomenal as well, if doable
> hope this information can be of some use,
> inthane

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